I used to enjoy latkes every Chanukah, when they are traditionally served to symbolize the miracle of oil (yes, oily foods are the done thing during this festival), along with cheese blintzes and doughnuts. The key to achieving the perfect latke is to make sure the oil is not so hot that the potato burns before it is properly cooked, but hot enough that it crisps up nicely. The topping choices are vast and can include Salt Beef and pickles or Lox and soured cream. Alternatively, simply enjoy them on their own, snatched quickly out of the pan and eaten between sheets of kitchen paper the way I did.
Makes 20 latkes
1 fennel bulb
4 white potatoes, around 1kg in total 1 onion
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed with a pestle and mortar
3 large eggs, beaten
80g plain flour or medium matzo meal 2 teaspoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
100ml sunflower oil, for frying
For the lemon and chive aioli 5 tablespoons mayonnaise juice of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Preheat the oven to 110°C/90°C fan/Gas Mark ¼.
Cut the woody stalk off the fennel bulb, then cut the bulb in half lengthways. Remove the core and slice very thinly, preferably with a mandolin if you have one. Add the fennel slices to a bowl of cold water and leave to soften for 10 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and grate coarsely or, even better, use the grating attachment on your food processor if you have one. Peel and grate the onion, then add with the potato to a clean tea towel and squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible.
Add the potato and onion to a large bowl. Drain the fennel and add to the bowl with the crushed fennel seeds, eggs, flour or matzo meal, salt and some black pepper. Mix really well with your hands.
Heat 80ml of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add about 3 tablespoonfuls of the mixture per latke to the pan and flatten with a spatula. Fry the latkes, turning once, for around 4–5 minutes on each side until a deep golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a baking tray lined with kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven while you fry the rest. Repeat with the remaining latke mixture, adding a bit more of the remaining oil each time.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the aioli together well in a bowl.
Serve the latkes warm on a large plate with a bowl of the aioli on the side.
You can store any leftover latkes in a single layer on a baking tray in the fridge and then reheat in an oven preheated to 200°C/180°C fan/ Gas Mark 6 for 20–30 minutes.