Chanukah – sometimes spelled Hanukkah, Hanukah, Chanuka – is known as the Jewish Festival of Lights. Celebrated for eight days and eight nights, this popular winter holiday celebrates the miracle of the victory of the Jewish freedom fighters, called Maccabees, over the Syrian-Hellenic army in second century BCE. Antiochus, leader of the land, had ruled with a heavy hand, issuing decrees against Jewish religious observances, trying to convert Jews to Hellenism, and killing many in the process. With the victory, however, the Maccabees and their leader, Judah, were able to recapture the Holy Temple and rededicate it. “Chanukah” in Hebrew means “dedication.”
The Maccabees recaptured the Temple, which had been badly destroyed by the Syrians, and wanted to light the Temple’s menorah, a large multi-branched candelabra, also called a “chanukiah.” A vessel of pure oil was discovered, and it looked as if there would be only enough oil to light the menorah for one night; the oil lasted eight. That is the second miracle.
To commemorate these miracles, Jews around the world celebrate the holiday by lighting a chanukiah for eight nights. On the first night, one flame is lit. Each night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight flames are aglow.
With the holiday falling in November or December, when nights are long and dark, the message of Chanukah is the power of light over darkness. Families or friends come together to light candles, eat festive meals, and enjoy one another’s company. Dreidel (spinning top) games are played, with Chanukah gelt (chocolate wrapped coins) as prizes. Gifts are often exchanged, too. This year, however, Chanukah festivities will be toned down or celebrated virtually among friends and family.
Because of the miracle of the Temple oil lasting eight nights, the holiday traditionally features oil-based, fried foods: sufganiyot, which are jelly doughnuts, and potato latkes, which are potato pancakes. Enter any Jewish home over the holiday and the smell of frying oil will greet your nose.
You can find recipes for variations of sufganiyot, some more decadent than others. As for latkes, they are often also made more creatively these days. Carrot, beet, sweet potato, parsnip, zucchini, or even leek might replace the familiar potato -- but we like to stick to basics. Below, you will find a vegan potato latke recipe for you to make and enjoy, whether or not you are celebrating this bright holiday.
By the way, with latkes comes the great debate of which topping to use: Applesauce or sour cream? Of course, you can use vegan versions of both, but we prefer to top our latkes with any of SUUP’s condiments: Amba, Matbucha, Lemon Lovers’ Hummus or Harissa Roasted Red Pepper Spread. Spooned onto a traditional potato latke, the flavours of SUUP’s condiments brighten your taste experience.
Happy Fryin’, and Happy Chanukah!
VEGAN LATKES – recipe by Robin Robertson, chef & cookbook author
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Safflower oil, for frying
- Peel and grate potatoes, then place in a colander and set over a large bowl. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid from the potatoes. Pour off liquid and place potatoes in bowl. Grate onion and add to potatoes along with parsley, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a thin layer of oil. Take a heaping tablespoon of batter and flatten it before gently placing it in hot oil. Make three or four more potato pancakes this way, and add to skillet without crowding pan. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 8 minutes total.
- Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding more oil as necessary. Remove cooked potato pancakes to paper towels to drain, then transfer to an ovenproof platter and keep warm in oven until all pancakes are cooked.