Mouth-Watering Hanukkah Recipes From The Chefs That Know What’s What
Beef Cheeks and hummus by Ored Oren. Photograph by Ms Issy Crocker, courtesy of Hardie Grant
Come sundown on 18 December, Jews the world over will light their first menorah candle to mark the start of Hanukkah. The annual Festival of Lights is a celebration of the Maccabees’ punchy revolt against the Greek Seleucid Empire and rededication of Jerusalem’s desecrated temple, where a menorah was miraculously kept aflame for eight days with 24 hour’s oil supply. Ergo – a lengthy holiday where scoffing oil-fried delights, such as latkes and doughnuts, is out-and-out divine.
In Israel, many bakeries become doughnut factories over Hanukkah, turning out thousands of sufganiyot — airy jam-packed cousins to the prolific, dense US-style coffee-dunkers. “My favourite way of making sufganiyot is to use butter and sugar-enriched eggy challah dough that’s then formed and dispensed into oil with an ice cream scoop,” says Mr Michael Solomonov, the famed US-Israeli chef and co-owner of several lauded, packed-out dining spots, including Philadephia’s Zahav, and the scorching hot Laser Wolf. “Last year, our CookNSolo pastry chef, Katreena Kanney, created sweet potato and marshmallow sufganiyot as Hanukkah overlapped with Thanksgiving – our guests went crazy for them.”
Mr Oded Oren, chef and owner of London’s Oren, a genuine gem of an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, fondly recalls eating his grandmother’s sufganiyot, which were filled with his grandad’s homemade strawberry jam, while growing up in Tel Aviv. Mr Itamar Srulovich and Ms Sarit Packer – the husband-and-wife team behind London’s exceptional Honey & Smoke, Honey & Co and Honey & Spice – are adamant that doughnuts of any ilk shouldn’t be too sweet nor cloying and should be gobbled immediately. And it’s their recipe for a sophisticated whisky and orange curd-filled variety that we’re sharing below, for you to gorge on at home.
“My mum doesn’t remember why she added coffee to her mother’s recipe, but it’s brilliant, as those deep, roasted flavours work really well with beef”
Beyond fried fare, holiday tables traditionally centre upon roast chicken or beef brisket. As Solomonov says, “An ever-evolving recipe passed down through the generations is pretty common. My mum doesn’t remember why she added coffee to her mother’s recipe, but it’s brilliant, as those deep, roasted flavours work really well with beef.”
Now, while we’d never suggest replacing a treasured family staple, Oren proposes a different cut – beef cheeks – as a joyful and indulgent menu addition, because “the strip of fat laced through that tender meat keeps it juicy once cooked”.
After receiving rave reviews for a beef cheek and silken hummus pita dish many years ago, this sumptuous combination has become a classic at Oren restaurant. And one that will sit beautifully on a family-style menu with Solomonov’s kale, apple, walnut and sumac-onion tabbouleh – while also making a stellar standalone supper, or starter.
As its originator explains, “In the US, salad is viewed as an add-on, or a sad at-your-desk lunch. While in Israel, it’s practically the whole ball game… Beginning meals with salatim is the concept we’ve brought to Laser Wolf.” To that end, we’re featuring his zesty spin on a heavenly Libyan salad cum condiment – kabocha squash tershi – with which to kick-off this year’s holiday feast.
Kale tabbouleh and squash tershi by Mr Michael Solomonov
Photograph by Mr Mike Persico
Kale, apple, walnut and sumac-onion tabbouleh
2 cups (packed) shredded stemmed kale leaves
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup diced apple
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup simple sumac onions (see below)
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine and serve.
Simple sumac onions
Makes about 1 cup
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground sumac
½ tsp kosher salt
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Serve immediately.
Kabocha squash tershi (Libyan pumpkin dip)
Photograph by Mr Mike Persico
1 small onion
1 red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 kabocha squash
Rind and juice of 2 lemons
1 cup white wine vinegar
⅔ cup water
⅓ cup sugar
2 tsp ground coriander
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Finely chop the onion and bell pepper, and thinly slice the garlic cloves.
Cook the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil with a pinch of kosher salt until soft for about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add smoked paprika and toast for another 30 seconds, until fragrant. Remove from the heat.
Cut a kabocha squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut off about ¼ cup squash to pickle later. Season the remaining squash with canola oil and a few pinches of salt. Roast on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes, or until tender. Let cool.
Cut the reserved raw squash into small pieces and finely chop the lemon rinds and place in a heatproof medium bowl.
Combine the white wine vinegar, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then pour the brine over the squash and lemon rind. Set aside to pickle at room temperature for at least one hour or overnight.
Scoop the roasted kabocha flesh into a large bowl, add the onion and pepper mixture, ground coriander, and the pickled squash and lemon rind. Mix, taste and add salt and lemon juice as needed.
Beef cheeks and hummus by Mr Oded Oren
Photograph by Ms Issy Crocker, courtesy of Hardie Grant
(NB: If, as advised, you’re using dried chickpeas for your hummus, soak them a day in advance.)
To serve 2+ tablespoons per person
600g (1lb 5oz) dried chickpeas, soaked in water for 24 hours
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
75ml (2½fl oz/⅓ cup) lemon juice
200g (7oz) tahini, ideally Middle Eastern
Rinse the chickpeas for a few minutes, then drain and place in a stockpot with enough water to cover.
Add the bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil and simmer for about two hours, or until the chickpeas are soft enough to yield easily when pinched.
Drain, saving 125ml (4¼fl oz or generous ½ cup) of the cooking liquid, and leave to cool slightly.
Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor and blitz for three to four minutes.
Add the cooking liquid and blitz for a further two minutes.
Add the salt, lemon juice and tahini and blitz for another two minutes.
Store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to three days.
Vegetable oil, for cooking
Freshly ground black pepper
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) trimmed beef cheeks
100g (3½ oz) onions, cut into 2cm (3¼in) cubes
250g (9oz) leeks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (3¼in) cubes
45g (1½ oz) tomato purée (paste)
200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) dry red wine
5 bay leaves
½ garlic head
600ml (20fl oz/2½ cups) good-quality beef stock
An optional extra 300ml (10fl oz/1¼ cups) of stock to reheat the cheeks
Heat a large, heavy-based ovenproof dish with a drizzle of oil over a high heat.
Season the meat generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
When the pan starts to smoke, add the meat in batches (do not overcrowd the pan as the cheeks won’t seal properly) and brown on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Add a drizzle more oil, then add the vegetables to the pan and cook over a medium heat until caramelised at the edges – this can take 20–25 minutes, so be patient.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F/gas 3).
Add the tomato purée and red wine to the vegetables and cook until the wine has reduced by half.
Return the beef cheeks to the pan, add the bay leaves, garlic and cover with stock. Bring to the boil and cover tightly with foil and cook in the oven for two and a half to three hours. The best way to check the meat is done is to take one cheek out onto a plate and taste it – it should be really soft, but not falling apart.
Gently remove the meat from the pan and keep covered in a warm place. Pass the stock through a fine sieve into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Reduce the stock by simmering it for a few minutes until reduced by two-thirds, then strain.
Serve the cheeks with their sauce and hummus.
Both these recipes can be found in Oren’s recently published debut cookbook Oren: A Personal Collection of Recipes and Stories from Tel Aviv (Hardie Grant).
Fried doughnuts with orange and whisky curd by Honey & Co
Photograph by Ms Patricia Niven
Makes 15 doughnuts
(NB: It’s best to start a day in advance)
20g dry active yeast (or, even better, use 40g fresh yeast)
80ml warm milk
2 tbsp plain white flour
480g plain flour
480g plain flour
480g plain flour
1 tsp salt
Zest of ½ orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp whisky
80g butter, diced
120ml orange juice
60ml lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
150g caster sugar
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp whisky
2 tsp cornflour
Oil for frying
50g dark chocolate for drizzling (optional)
Mix the starter ingredients together really well and set in a warm place for about 30 minutes to activate the yeast. Place all the doughnut ingredients in a mixer bowl with a dough hook and add the starter.
Knead on a medium speed for about five minutes, or until you get a smooth and shiny dough. Leave it in the bowl, cover and prove for two hours.
Knead the dough again to knock it back, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover. Place in the fridge overnight.
Make the curd the day before as well, so that it is firm enough for piping into the doughnuts. Boil the orange and lemon juice with the zest, sugar and butter. In a separate bowl, mix the whole egg and the yolks with the cornflour and whisky.
Once the sugar and juice syrup is boiling and all the butter has melted, pour it over the egg mix. Whisk well and return to the hob, whisking all the time until the mix thickens and large bubbles appear. Transfer to a clean bowl through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Cover with cling film so that it doesn’t form a skin and keep in the fridge.
Divide the dough into 15 pieces of about 60g each and roll tightly into balls. Set each one on a small square of baking paper and leave in a warm place to prove for about two hours, until they have doubled in size.
Set a large pan (preferably with a lid but otherwise use a plate) on the stove, pour in 5cm of frying oil (something neutral) and place on a medium heat. Check the oil is hot by popping a tiny amount of dough in – it should fizz a little but not boil like crazy. Pop in four to six doughnuts, top side down, peeling off the paper square. Cover with the lid and cook for another minute.
Remove the lid. If the undersides of the doughnuts are dark already, pull the pan off the heat for a couple of minutes. They should be golden. Fry for one more minute without the lid and then flip the doughnuts to cook for two minutes on the other side.
Put them on some kitchen paper. You should see a band of white dough around the centre – if not, you may need to prove your doughnuts a little longer.
Fill the doughnuts using a piping bag or just halve them like a sandwich. If you fancy, drizzle with melted dark chocolate or simply dust with icing sugar.