The fashion for rösti-Swiss grated potato pancakes is an appealing idea but have you ever heard of latkes? They have the same important ingredient which is potato, but cooked in two different ways. There are so many recipes for potato cakes in European culture, but latkes, after trying for the first time, you would put them at the pinnacle. Latkes are cooked and served by both Christian and Jewish families through Poland or Lithuania. They are traditionally cooked on Hanukkah, along with other fried foods, to commemorate the miracle of the menorah oil in the Jewish Temple. This version comes from Claudia Roden’s blockbusting book Book of Jewish Eastern Food, is a magisterial work of great scholarship and good cooking.
Serve latkes as a first course or a side dish. Ever heard about accompanying tea, with a sprinkle of sugar? Yes, you can try in this way as well, although that might be a latke so far. This is what Claudia mentions in her book. They also make a good main course served with a large dollop of soured cream or apple sauce.
For 6 serves, all you need is:
- 1 kg potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- Oil for frying
Start preparing this dish by peeling and finely grating the potatoes. Then put them straight into cold water and squeeze them as dry as you can by pressing them with your hands in a colander. This is to remove the starchy liquid, which could make the latkes soggy.
Beat the eggs lightly with salt, add the potatoes, and stir well. Film the bottom of a frying pan with oil and heat. Take serving-spoonfuls, or as much as 50ml of the mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten a little, and lower the heat so that the fritters cook through evenly. When one side is brown, turn over and brown the other. Lift out and serve very hot. If your latkes aren’t holding together, stir more potato starch into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, till the batter “holds.” You can also add another egg to the mixture and more flour or breadcrumbs, if needed.
For a change you may add black pepper, chopped parsley and finely chopped onion to the egg and potato mixture. In this way it can be a complete meal with addition of these ingredients.
Adding 4 tablespoons of potato flour binds the fritters into firmer, more compact cakes, easier to handle but not quite as lovely to eat.