TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY - AND LIGHT
This year, Christmas and Hannukah fell on the same day – and I enjoyed the rare experience by working through both.
I did a report about the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – pics below – which I sent out to broadcasters before the holiday started, so I thought I could put my feet up, but no … there was so much news from the UN, that it’s been go go go.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven - Ecclesiastisies (Kohelet)
One thing I love about celebrating the festivals in the northern hemisphere is experiencing them in their correct season.
Hanukah is the festival of lights, which has a different level of meaning here during the shortest days of the year, when the candles light up the long dark night.
Hannukah is also a festival where it's traditional to eat oily foods. The religious reason is to celebrate a miracle that took place in the Jewish Temple during Greek times, where one day’s oil needed to purify the Temple lasted for eight days. But winter is also the right time to eat oily foods… they help insulate you against the cold and you want to eat them more now than you do in summer. (Traditional Christmas fare such as roast turkey and steamed puddings also seem to taste better in the northern hemisphere than in Australia in summer!)
The foods traditionally eaten at Hannukah are Latkes and Ponchkes, as they were known in Europe – potato fritters and jam-filled doughnuts.
In Israel the doughtnuts began as a round fried ball of yeast dough, with strawberry or plum jam – the classic ‘Berliner’.
But lately the doughnuts, or sufganyot, as they are known in Hebrew, have ritzed right up. Yep, they’ve gone gourmet… Chocolate, vanilla crème, salted caramel, chestnut, and marscapone and fresh fruit are just some of the fillings replacing plain old jam. Some have gone the full Las Vegas!
Today, they're sold with small bottles attached, so that you can inject added flavourings just before you bite in. No soggy doughnuts for the Israeli consumer! Eat your heart out Homer Simpson.
Israeli bakery chain Roladin has a separate Facebook page just for its gourmet doughnuts.
First 3 offerings when I logged in, to give you a feel of the new doughnut experience:
CHOCOLATTA BIANCO: Italian cream ganache filled, covered w/ Belgian chocolate/ infused w/ chocolate-hazelnut chaser
GOLDEN CRISP: Praline chocolate cream filled/ covered in Belgian chocolate with carmelized crepe & hazelnut crumbs & extra white chocolate chaser
PRINCESS VANILLA: Vanilla Madagascar cream covered in white chocolate, garnished with white meringues, white chocolate pearls, almond crumble & toffee cream chaser, it's both gift & confection.
And then there’s the doughnut croquembouche, which chef Keren Kadosh baked this year for Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Eating that would be certainly be a mitzva!
But I have a confession, which may come as a surprise given how much baking we do here at Food is Love. I don’t much like doughnuts. There I’ve said it. It’s the only sweet that doesn’t give my sweet tooth a thrill. So if you want a recipe, chef Keren Kadosh won’t steer you wrong. Otherwise you can just enjoy the pictures, and if you live in Israel, troop out to buy one!
But what we do make a lot of at Food is Love is Latkes. Vegetable fritters, including the potato classic, of course, and also: Sweet Potato. Leek. Zucchini. Carrot.
The recipes are all here for you to dip into. They're delicious, and not difficult to prepare. Plus there’s a religious obligation! What more could you want?
1. POTATO LATKES – the first great classic, "the original and best", recipe from Sydney grandmother Thea Riesel.
2. LEEK FRITTERS, 'PRASA' – the traditional Sephardi recipe, from Greek grandmother Rosa Bagdadli
3. ZUCCHINI – 3 ways! Mediterranean, Japanese Okaonmiake, and Sephardi recipe from Sri Lanka, made with 2 basic ingredients: zucchini itself and chickpea flour.
4. CARROT x 2 - Middle Eastern with fetta cheese and Korean Chijimi fritters
5. SWEET POTATO - last recipe hiding on the carrot page!
For my money, the zucchini were the standout fritters. But other people will fight me tooth and nail for their fritter to nab that coveted title. The classic potato has a lot of people in its corner, that’s for sure. So try one, try all and enjoy this holiday season wherever you are. And whatever you celebrate.
CHRISTMAS in bethlehem
I'm adding a few photos from Bethlehem where the Church of the Nativity, built above the place where it's believed Jesus was born, is having a facelift - its first renovation in more than 500 years! The Church was on the point of collapse and the intervention (by the Palestinian Authority) came at a critical time.
The restoration also uncovered Crusader era mosaics that hadn’t been touched since they were created almost 900 years ago!
24 angels once graced these walls, and the Church knew that 6 remained. During the restoration, a Seventh angel was revealed, behind a plaster wall, and he has now been restored too.
And isn’t it interesting how Crusader angels were tall, sad faced males with wings a halo – and sandals?
Less than ten percent of the mosaics remain, but the walls of the Church are gleaming gold again for the first time this Christmas.