Traditional Food for Chanukah - Zalabia in Orange Blossom Syrup

By Rachel Davies •

The Jewish festival of Chanukah or Hanukah starts on the evening of 8th December 2012 and lasts for eight days.  Rachel explores the variety of food traditionally made to celebrate.  She shares a delicious recipe for fried zalabia soaked in an orange blossom syrup.


The origin of Jewish families can be divided roughly between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Ashkenazim come originally from Central and Eastern Europe, and their food traditions tend to be ‘kosher style’ food, including gefilte fish, chopped liver, kneidlach dumplings in chicken soup, chopped herring, bagels and lokshen pudding. It’s all heavy, comforting, cold weather food.

Sephardim have their backgrounds in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, and north Africa, and have differing traditions including these lovely zalabia, or bunuelos which were traditionally made for the Jewish festival of Chanukah. The festival celebrates a miracle where oil that was enough to burn for just one day continued to light the temple for eight days.

Every night for eight days, Jews light candles to remember the miracle, and traditionally they eat fried foods including potato latkes, donuts, and these lovely zalabia soaked in a perfumed orange blossom syrup. You can also sprinkle them with icing sugar and cinnamon, or infuse the syrup with your favourite flavourings.

Orange Blossom Zalabia

Makes approx. 40


500g plain flour

A big pinch of salt

630ml warm water

1 packet (7g) fast action yeast

Light sunflower oil, for frying, plus more for coating spoons

For The Sugar Syrup

1kg sugar

500g water

½ lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon orange blossom water



To make the batter, weigh the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, and stir in the water. Beat well for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and elastic. You can also use a standing mixer with a dough hook. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours until risen and covered in bubbles.


For the syrup, combine the water, sugar and lemon juice in a pan, and boil for 5 minutes. Add the orange blossom water and remove from the heat.


To cook the zalabia, heat 5cm of oil in a large pan to 190C. Working in batches, drop tablespoons of the batter into the oil. They should puff up and rise to the surface. Leave to fry until lightly golden and turn to cook on both sides. Drain on paper towel and repeat until all the batter has been used.


Soak the fritters in the sugar syrup for a few minutes, and serve immediately.


For more doughnut recipes visit the collection of treats on Great British Chefs.


Rachel Davies

Rachel Davies is a London based chef, cookery teacher, food writer and founder of Rachel’s Kitchen. She teaches classes ranging from patisserie and Sugarcraft to fresh pasta and sushi. She loves big, bold flavours and obscure ingredients. She is also a finalist in the Cookery School Awards ‘Best Young Rising Star’ 2012.

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