Navigate to Food section

Fry Up Something New for Hanukkah

Made with lamb and leeks, savory ‘kiftes’ bring a taste of Macedonia to your holiday table

Joan Nathan
December 19, 2016
Photos: Dan Allen
Photos: Dan Allen
Photos: Dan Allen
Photos: Dan Allen

In Macedonia—both the Balkan state and the northern section of Greece—leeks grow as plentifully as onions, so there are many leek dishes from this region. In particular, Jews from Macedonia wax nostalgic about leek kofta, as these patties are known locally, made with lamb, beef, or potatoes and cheese.

As I was researching recipes for my forthcoming book King Solomon’s Table, Tablet’s editor in chief, Alana Newhouse, gave me permission to tamper with the traditional recipe for “kiftes” or “kiftes de prasa” made by her maternal grandmother, who came from Monastir (now Bitola), Macedonia. I didn’t have to change much. Roasting the leeks at a high heat instead of boiling them, as Alana’s grandmother would have done, and adding a bit of spice made all the difference in bringing out the flavor.

For Jews from this part of the former Ottoman Empire, this recipe is a staple for the holidays—including Hanukkah, when they are fried in olive oil. Alana’s grandmother made them with lamb and served them accompanied by salad as an appetizer. I like them served the same way, but as a main course, accompanied with a spicy chutney or, at Hanukkah, with applesauce and potato latkes.

Kiftes de Prasa

Kiftes de Prasa, Macedonian Leek and Meat Patties

1/4 cup olive oil plus oil for frying, divided
6 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, cleaned, and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces
2 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds chopped lamb, beef, or boiled potatoes (see NOTE)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup chopped parsley to taste
1/2 cup matzo meal

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and rub a large-rimmed baking sheet with a little of the oil. Toss the leeks with more oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and half the pepper. Spread the leeks out in a single layer (use a second baking sheet if necessary) and roast, tossing frequently, until golden brown and crisp at the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Chop the leeks and mix with the meat or potato, eggs, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, parsley, matzo meal, and remaining salt and pepper. Form into 12 patties, roughly 3 inches wide. Heat a frying pan with a thin film of oil. Brown the patties until golden on each side, making sure they cook through.

Yield: 12 patties

NOTE: If substituting potatoes for the meat, add a little Parmesan cheese to the potatoes for some extra flavor.

The Recipe

Kiftes de Prasa, Macedonian Leek and Meat Patties

Kiftes de Prasa, Macedonian Leek and Meat Patties

Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.