Khag kasher ve-sameakh – a happy and kosher Passover! I’m posting this from Israel, where I will be spending the holiday with my grandparents, who live in a seniors’ home for South Africans in the town of Herzliyya. Wherever you are, I wish you a happy holiday.
I want to end our Pesach series with a very simple and tasty Passover dish – the traditional Sephardic Balkan keftes de prasa, or leek fritters – whose black bits of crispy fried goodness are the final color. These treats are traditional Passover fare among the Sephardic communities of the Balkans – Serbia, Turkey, and Greece above all – but also have been served for other holidays as well. I first tried them at an event for Hanukkah – when, like latkes and doughnuts, a leek patty fried in oil would be most seasonal. Yet it is for Pesach that these crispy vegetable patties are now popular.
Leeks themselves have a lengthy Jewish history. The vegetable is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Numbers as one the Jews yearn for from their time of slavery in Egypt, for they “were wont to eat…the leeks, and the onions.” Regardless, the vegetable was probably prominent in ancient Israelite cooking, and was spread by the Romans throughout the Mediterranean region. German Ashkenazim indeed would later use the vegetable, and it saw limited use in Eastern Europe, but this infrequent use paled in comparison to the leek’s appearance on the tables of Sephardim. Gil Marks remarked that the leek was the “single most important vegetable” of Sephardic cooking in the Ottoman Empire, and ended up in everything – soups, stews, patties, and pastries. The keftes de prasa are attested from the Ottoman period – and indeed, their name reflect the Turkish köfte (patty) and Ladino and Greek prasa (leek). These treats, however, are enjoyed by all.
Keftes de Prasa
Makes 12-20 Fritters
A Passover adaptation from the Jewish Women’s Archive
Two large leeks, thoroughly washed and chopped
1 cup matzah meal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Olive oil for frying
- A note: you really should make sure your leeks are thoroughly washed before you chop. Consult this guide to learn how to have clean leeks! Then chop.
- Boil the chopped leeks in water for five minutes, or until somewhat soft, but with some solidity. Drain the leeks and set aside. Let cool.
- Mix the boiled leeks and the ingredients other than the oil in a bowl until you have a thick, thoroughly mixed batter.
- Heat a pan, then add the oil. Then, spoon in large clumps of batter, one at a time, evenly in the oil.
- Fry for 2-4 minutes, or until brown on the done side, and flip to fry the other side. When both sides are brown, remove from the pan. Repeat until you are done with the batter.
- Serve hot – some folks serve straight from the pan – or warm. I’ve never tested these after reheating – they have been eaten quickly.
The author would like to thank Jeremy Swack for being part of the User Acceptance Testing for this recipe.