3 International-Inspired Recipes for Hanukkah

“Over their two thousand years of exile, Jews migrated across the world, taking their culinary heritage and traditions with them. Wherever they went, they adapted local and regional dishes to fit their own strict dietary laws and, as a result, Jewish food today encompasses an enormous variety of cuisines and cooking styles,” Paola Gavin writes in her recently published cookbook, Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking. This Hanukkah (Dec. 12-20), why not enjoy tasty recipes with Russian, Turkish, and Italian roots?

Potato and spinach croquettes

Fritikas de spinaka kon patatas from Turkey

These delicious little croquettes may be served as a light main course or a side dish. Traditionally they are often prepared for Rosh Hashanah, or for Passover—in which case, matzo meal is used instead of flour. (Pictured above)

Serves 4-5


  • 8 oz. spinach
  • 2 lb. potatoes
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour or matzo meal, for dredging
  • Olive oil, for deep-frying


  1. Wash the spinach thoroughly, then cook in a covered saucepan over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or until wilted—the water clinging to the leaves is sufficient to prevent scorching. Drain well and squeeze dry, then chop finely.
  2. Boil the potatoes in plenty of lightly salted water for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel and then force through a sieve or mash with a potato ricer. Add the spinach and egg yolks and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into balls the size of a walnut and flatten slightly, then set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Dip the croquettes into the egg white then roll in flour. Working in batches, deep-fry the croquettes in hot oil until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Potato dumplings stuffed with curd cheese and chives

Pampushki from Russia

Pampushki can be fried or boiled, sweet or savory. For sweet pampushki, simply omit the chives from the filling, add a tablespoon or two of sugar and the grated rind of a lemon, then serve lightly dusted with sugar. In Russia they generally fry pampushki in vegetable oil, but as I believe cooking with vegetable oils can be bad for your health, I prefer to use olive oil instead.

Serves 4

potato dumplings stuffed with cheese curd and chives


  • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled
  • 2½ cups mashed potato
  • Olive oil, for shallow frying

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. curd (pot or farmer’s) cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the filling, place the curd cheese, egg yolk, and chives in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Coarsely grate the potatoes, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Place in a bowl with the mashed potato, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Form the potato mixture into balls about the size of an egg. Punch a hole in the center with your forefinger and fill with a teaspoonful of filling, then close up to seal the filling inside. Flatten slightly and shallow-fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Apple fritters

Fritelle di mele from Italy

These delicious apple fritters are often made for Chanukah and Tu Bi-Shevat, the Festival of the Trees. For a variation, try making them with other fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, apricots, or figs.

Serves 4-6


  • 4 tart apples
  • 4-5 tablespoons brandy
  • Olive oil, for deep-frying
  • Icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting

For the batter:

  • 1 cup unbleached plain (all-purpose) flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine


  1. For the batter, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolk, olive oil, wine, and 5 tablespoons water and mix well, then gradually stir in up to another 5 tablespoons water to make a smooth batter. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut into rounds about ¼-inch thick. Place in a shallow bowl and pour over the brandy. Let the apples steep for 30 minutes.
  3. To finish the batter, in another bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff and then gently fold into the batter. Working in batches, dip the apple rings into the batter and deep-fry in hot oil until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve at once, dusted with icing sugar.


hazana cookbook cover Recipes excerpted with permission from Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin, published by Quadrille October 2017, RRP $35.00 hardcover. Photos by Mowie Kay.


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