There is a warm place in my heart for leeks. These delicate and buttery members on the onion family are beloved all over the Mediterranean, from Greece and Turkey to France, and one of the most traditional ways to enjoy them is in the form of simple leek patties.
In Turkey leek patties are called Pırasa Köftesi, and Sephardic Jews call them Keftes de Prasa, and they are darn tasty straight out of the pan but also cold and lukewarm.
The ones you see here were made my me in along with my friend Raheli Krut (@raheli) who was kind enough to take the pictures here.
Leeks have religious meaning in many cultures, and are one 8-10 vegetables and fruits traditionally served for different blessings on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, that occurs around mid-September.
Leeks (or prasa in the Balkans) are available year-round, and their peak season in winter and spring. When shopping for them, search for ones that feel heavy for their size, with fresh (rather then dry) greens.
The white part of the leek is made out of leaves that have been exposed to little or no sunlight. They are more delicate in texture compared to the green, leafier part, which is often discarded.
However, when nice and fresh, the chlorophyll rich leek greens deliver great texture and flavor and are a shame to waste.
As a rule of thumb, if you want the color of a dish to be pale white (say leek and potato soup) – the greens should be omitted. However, you can add them to any rustic soup, stew and of course stock you plan on making.
I like to freeze leek greens (along with swiss chard and cauliflower stems) and when I have enough make a large batch of high quality vegetable stock.
It is also good to know the root of the leek (the 2.5 cm 1 inch at the bottom) could also be of use: you can plant it in your garden or in a houseplant, water them and after a while new leaves will start growing!
How to clean leeks
The leaves of the leek grow from the ground up, so even the top of the leek might contain a bit of dirt.
The best way to clean them is to cut it horizontally to 3-4 tube like parts, halve them and place in a bowl full of water. Rub to release the layers and the heavier dirt will sink to the bottom.
Plump, not oily
I have tested a lot of leek patties recipes in the past, and many on them turned out oily, absorbing a lot of frying oil. And the one decisive factor that was responsible for the oily outcome was water content.
Whenever you make fritters or other vegetable patties, you wish to achieve two goals: a golden-brown exterior and a cooked, soft interior. The more water your mixture contains when it enters the oil, the longer the frying time will be.
And the longer the starches in the patty mix are exposed to the hot oil, the more of it they absorb and oilier they turn out.
With that insight in mind, I changed the method of the recipes I knew: instead of boiling then draining and chopping the leeks, I cooked them with a little bit of water for a long period of time, 40-60 minutes over medium heat.
By the end of the cooking, there was no pool of water at the bottom of the pot, the leeks (both green and white parts) were completely tender and concentrated in flavor.
When I added bread crumbs and eggs to these cooked leaks, they formed the best behaving patty mixture, absorbing very little oil after entering the pan.
This a a very adjustable leek patties recipe, and you will find instructions an how to make gluten free, vegan, Paleo and even baked fritters in the notes below.
The ultimate leek patties
- 2 medium size leeks (about 0.5 kg 1.1 lb) well cleaned
- 1-2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- fine sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil for shallow frying
For the leeks:
Halve the leeks lengthwise then thinly slice. It the green part on the leek in nice and fresh, use it as well.
Place the chopped leeks in a medium saucepan, add water to 3/4 up the height of the leeks and bring to a boil.
Cook over medium-high heat 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the water has evaporated and the leeks are completely tender (note the result is more important than the mentioned cooking time, cook longer if needed).
After you see no water at the bottom of the pot, continue cooking, stirring often, for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, to dry out the leeks even more.
To form the patties:
Move the cooked leeks to a large bowl. Add the eggs, bread crumbs and salt to season, stir to combine.
Heat the olive oil in a wide nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Using wet hands (so nothing sticks), take about a heaped tablespoon from the mixture and form to 1 cm (0.5 inch) thick round patty shape.
Lay 5-6 patties in the pan and fry 2-3 minutes on each side until nice and golden.
Remove using a spatula onto paper towels. Continue forming and frying patties from the rest of the mixture.
Serve at once, alongside Greek yogurt or homemade tahini.
The patties can be kept refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen 3 months.
- Preparing a double batch is highly recommended!
- For a vegan + gluten free version:
Prepare the leeks as mentioned in the recipe. Replace the eggs and bread crumbs with 3-4 tablespoons of red lentil or chickpea flour, that provide both the protein and the starch needed for the patties to succeed. Once you stir the leeks and flour, you'll need to gradually add just a bit of water to create a mixture that holds and can be shaped to patties.
Replace the breadcrumbs with one medium potato, finely grated and firmly squeezed of excess water.
- To bake:
Form the patties in any way you deem fit. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle each patty with olive oil on both sides and bake at a 200 c 400 f oven for 12 minutes or until golden.
- During Passover:
Replace the breadcrumbs with matzo meal.