Hannukah is by far my favorite Jewish holiday because it is all fun without the formalities.
There are no five course meals to prepare, telephones calls wishing third cousins on the husband’s side happy holidays, no extensive present buying or crazy month long cleaning sessions. This is a time for casual friend and family gatherings for tasty treats and candle lighting.
For those with little children it is also filled with Hanukkah parties where kindergarteners sing ancient history in their off tune little voices.
The songs are about the ancient Greek Seleucids who stormed into Jerusalem (with the Macabees in hot pursuit), desecrating the temple and shattering all the oil filled pots. Only one lamp survived to feed the eternal flame with barely enough oil to last a single day (enter the beloved “little pot” song)”. As legend has us believe, this bit of oil burnt for eight days, enough time to make more consecrated oil to rededicate the temple.
After the mandatory candle lighting, this miracle is also commemorated by eating large amounts of deep fried foods in any shape or form. The calorie count of this holiday exceeds all others put together but out of respect for tradition, Jews around the world are exempt from dieting for the entire eight days. I am not sure if this is a rabbinical ordinance but it should be.
Two of the most popular foods are jam filled sufganiyot (donuts) and potato pancakes (also known as latkes or levivot) but creative chefs and home cooks have introduced their own fun deep fried concoctions.
From the end of October sufganiyot have been trickling out of bakeries , turning into an outright flood the first of the eight days. The bakeries compete with each other to make the most unique filled donuts and I couldn’t help but sample a few walking the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Rehovot.
Here are a few recipes great for Hannukah
Sweet Potato and Leek Patties
The Jews of Turkey introduced the leek patties to Israel. They are usually made with either potatoes or ground meat to bind the mixture together. Here I used sweet potatoes for a twist of the traditional recipe.
4-5 leaks (after cooking it makes about two cups), white part only
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
Flour for dredging
Salt and pepper
Lemon slices for garnish
Cut the leaks into large chucks, white part only. Put in a small pot and cover with water. Cook until the leeks are soft when poked with a fork. Drain completely. Let cool and squeeze extra moisture between two hands or by pressing into a sieve.
Bake or boil the sweet potato chunks until soft.
Combine the sweet potatoes with the leeks, add salt and pepper. Form flat patties about 1 cm thick, dredge in flour ( this helps absorb extra moisture) and fry in shallow oil until brown on both sides, flipping once. Serve with lemon wedges.