by Les Saidel - November, 2013
With the Festival of Lights fast approaching and the daunting prospect of "those-same-old" sufganiyot and latkes looming, I thought it might be a good opportunity to explore some less known traditional Channukah foods and cuisine from around the world to add to your repertoire.
I can't promise you that any of these options will be less caloric than donuts and latkes though, because the culinary theme of Channuka is "oil" and "sweet". You can check out my article from Dec 2012 "Channukah Damage Control" for some tips on minimizing the dietary impact of the holiday.
Recipes for all the delicacies may be found at the end of this article.
The first item on the agenda is Bimuelos.
These are fried honey puffs/fritters which are traditionally eaten by the Sephardic community, especially those originating from Spain, Greece and Turkey.
Their symbolic significance is similar to that of sufganiyot and latkes, that they resemble the cakes the Maccabim ate. Like sufganiyot, these are fried in oil, but unlike sufganiyot, the batter/dough is semi liquid, similar to pancake batter, rather than solid dough. The fritters are fried and then dipped in honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon. In Egypt a similar dish exists called zalabia and in Iran/Iraq/India they are called zengoula.
Cheese or dairy is another symbolic food group consumed on Channukah in memory of the heroine Yehudit who decapitated Assyrian enemy general Holofernes after winning his favour with her good looks and a basket of wine and cheese she offered as a tribute. Although the incident occurred historically during the time of Nebuchadnezzar, it has become traditionally associated with the story of Channukah and has been adapted accordingly.
For this reason cheese containing dishes are served on Channukah, cheesecakes, blintzes etc. For something completely different I suggest you try Cheese Channukah Gelt Coins.
These tasty crackers double also as Channukah Gelt (coins/pocket money for the kids).
Another Sephardic milk twist is Cassola, sweet cheese pancakes.
Interesting fact: Everyone thinks that donuts with holes in the middle were an American innovation (with Dutch origins). There is a North African dish traditionally eaten on Channukah called Sfenj, which is almost identical to a donut and predates it by a few hundred years.
If you are from Tunisia then you eat Brik on Channukah.
These are similar to a blintze and are made with crispy Pastilla dough leaves filled with vegetable/egg mix and fried in oil. It is possible to make the dough leaves yourself but it requires a lot of work and expertise and is best left to the pros. I recommend rather that you purchase ready made Pastilla dough leaves, available in most supermarkets.
Keftes de prasa, or leek patties are another traditional Channukah food from Turkey and neighboring Middle Eastern countries. They are similar in concept to latkes.
If you are from Holland, you will be familiar with Olliebollen.
These Dutch donuts are similar in concept to Bimuelos but the batter contains other additions like apples and sultanas.
That's it! Not your regular Channukah fare (unless you are Tunisian, Turkish or Dutch).
Eat and be merry, exercise well after and celebrate the festival of Channukah in good spirits and good health.
As promised, the recipes:
2 tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Mix batter ingredients until smooth. Leave to rise for 1 hour covered. While rising, prepare the syrup. Mix syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil stirring only until sugar is dissolved. After boiling point, lower heat and boil for 5 minutes more. Cool and reserve. Stir down batter mixture. Fill a wok/pan with oil 3-5cm deep and heat to about 190 degrees C. Dip tablespoon in hot oil and then use it to scoop up a spoonful of batter. Drop the batter into the oil (you may wet your hand to help get it off the spoon and into the oil). The batter puffs to twice the size. Fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Completely dip into syrup and let excess drain away. Coat generously with cinnamon and eat while warm.
Cheese Channukah Gelt Coins
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup flour
1 tsp Worcestershire or soya sauce
2 tsp onion powder
Blend ingredients in a food processor with metal blade until a dough is formed. Divide in two and roll into logs. Roll logs in sesame seeds until they are coated. Refrigerate overnight. Slice logs into 1/2cm thick coins and place on baking tray. Bake in 190 degree C oven for 12 minutes. Cool on tray for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to complete cooling. Store in airtight container to retain crispness.
Pastilla dough leaves (in Hebrew עלי בצק לסיגרים)
Eggs (1 egg for each Brik)
Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped fine
Bunch of fresh green spring onions, chopped fine
Oil for frying
Heat a pan of oil 3cm deep to 190 degrees C. Place one dough leaf on a clean, dry plate. On half of the leaf spread parsley, onion, add salt and pepper to taste. Carefully crack an egg over the parsley/onion mixture. Immediately fold over the leaf and squeeze the edges until sealed. Slide off the plate immediately into the oil. Fry until golden brown on one side, flip and fry until both sides are golden brown. The oil must be hot and the frying time short so that the yolk does not solidify. Place on paper towel to drain and eat immediately.
Keftes de prasa
Salt to taste
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Cook leeks in a pot of water until very soft. Drain and cool. Blend in food processor until smooth. Add the egg, breadcrumbs and salt and mix. Mixture should be firm enough to make into patties. Heat 3cm of oil in pan to 170 degrees C. Create patties from mixture and drop into oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides. Drain on paper towel. Serve while hot.
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
200ml warm milk
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
10g margarine softened
1 Granny Smith apple diced
Mix dough ingredients until smooth and elastic. Leave to rise until doubled in bulk (approx. 1 hour). Mix in diced apples and sulatanas. Heat oil 3cm deep in pan to 170 degrees C. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into hot oil and fry until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.
2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
Oil for frying
Mix ingredients in mixer till thick and creamy. Heat pan lightly coated with oil over medium heat. Ladle a spoonful of batter into the pan and fry until lightly brown on both sides (approx. 2 minutes per side).
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