It’s interesting to see the difference in style between what I call a latke (a very crispy potato cake) and the somewhat softer latkes that some of my friends with Polish origins love. Mine belong to the Litvak (Lithuanian-Jewish) culinary tradition, which dominated in South Africa where my mother’s family lived, having migrated from Eastern Europe in the late 1880s.
8–10 medium–large potatoes (desiree or pontiac are good)
1 onion, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon sugar
ground white pepper, to taste
canola or peanut oil, for panfrying
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Wash the potatoes but don’t peel them. Coarsely grate the potatoes, then place in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, without destroying the texture of the potato. Place in a bowl.
Using a fork, lightly mix in the onion, eggs, flour and sugar. Season with sea salt and white pepper.
Heat about 2 cm of oil in a large frying pan (an electric one is particularly good), until the oil is moderately hot, but not smoking. Using a fork and spoon, lightly lower spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the oil. Don’t be too neat about it "” those spiky bits make the latkes even crunchier "” and don’t shape or squash the latke batter. When golden underneath, turn the latkes once and brown the other side. Lift them out and drain on paper towels. Keep the latkes warm while you cook the remaining mixture. Discard the last of the mixture as it will be waterlogged.
Serve the latkes immediately on their own, with cinnamon-sugar, apple sauce and sour cream, or as an accompaniment to a meat dish such as a slow-cooked braise.
Recipe from Cooking From The Heart: A Journey Through Food by Hayley Smorgon and Gaye Weeden, with photographs by Mark Roper. Published by Hardie Grant.