When I was a child we sometimes had chicken for our Chanucah dinner. But mostly it was my mother’s pot roast brisket, which I have already pointed out in these pages was the greatest brisket cooked anywhere since the end of the Babylonian exile. Sadly, we stuck with cookies and pastries instead of doughnuts – not that anyone ever had room for many of them.
Why? You probably know why. Because along with the brisket, Chanucah dinner meant latkes.
We occasionally ate latkes on other days, but Chanucah was when potato, grater, eggs and apple sauce came into their own. I was introduced to flayed knuckles while helping my mother grate, and remember the relief we felt when her first food processor ended that blood sport. I remember competing with my siblings, and with myself, to set records for latke consumption. I remember eating some with apple sauce and some without, just for a change of pace.
And I remember going to bed, after dinner, with my belly feeling like a balloon that was fated soon to pop.
I wasn’t much of a wine drinker in those days, but there is one other thing I remember – unless my memory is playing tricks on me. Heaven on earth consists of rich, crisp, crusty potato; grains of kosher salt; apple sauce; and a drop or two of sweet wine.
That’s the way I remember it, anyway. If the combo doesn’t spin your dreidl, save the sweet stuff for the doughnuts.
So — three New World sweet wines to make merry with. Budget choice one: Tesco Finest Dessert Sémillon 2008 (£6.49/37.5cl), from the superb house of de Bortoli in New South Wales. Honeyed and perfumed.
Budget choice two: Vistamar Late Harvest Moscatel 2011 (Majestic, £6.24/37.5cl or £4.99 if you buy two). Good concentration, nice stone-fruit qualities.
For a bit of a splurge try Seifried Estate Sweet Agnes Riesling 2010 (£13.99/37.5cl, Laithwaites and Waitrose Wine Direct plus 3 branches of Waitrose). This beauty from New Zealand has wonderful intensity and a long life ahead of it.
Happy Chanucah. Try to keep your latke or doughnut consumption in single digits.