Saturday night dinner with leeks

I love writing in my new blog but I am in the midst of trying to finish my master’s classes this semester that I barely have any free time. Hopefully when February rolls around I will be done with classes and will start my thesis, hoping that might give me a bit more free time to share more recipes with you.

Saturday nights are my turn to cook dinner. I keep a list of recipes that I want to try, so once Saturday rolls around I make a recipe from the list, mostly with what I have on hand or I try to find the recipe on the list that I already have the ingredients for.

This Saturday it was ‘pırasa köftesi’ (leek and mice meat patties). One of my good friends, Aylin, who also happen to be one of the best food writers in Turkey, started a radio program a few months ago that also airs as podcast. In one of the episodes she was talking about leeks, and many different ways it can be used, and pırasa köftesi was one of those recipes. In my household, ever since I was a kid, leeks were only cooked as ‘zeytinyağlı,’ which is the traditional technique of cooking seasonal vegetables in olive oil.  To tell you the truth although I love leeks this is my least favorite kind of zeytinyağlı because it also has some rice in it. I do have a problem with scarce amount of rice that appears in some dishes, but that is perhaps a story for another blog post.

Pırasa köftesi is actually a ubiquitous Sephardic dish, so it is very popular among the Sephardic Jews of Istanbul. I had it once but never made it before. I probably should have looked up some recipes and perhaps asked my neighbor for a recipe but I decided to wing it and maybe add a couple of ingredients of my own. It turned out to be really good, crispy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside, a little hint of spiciness and a whole lot of umami. Paired with a spinach and red cabbage salad it was a light yet really fulfilling meal!

Pırasa Köftesi (Leek and mince meat patties)
Makes 8 medium sized patties

2-3 leeks, only the white parts, thinly sliced (if your leeks are thick maybe just one will be enough)
1 carrot, medium size, grated
6 tbsp. olive oil
200 gr ground beef
2 slices of stale whole-wheat bread or ¼ cup breadcrumbs*
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Antep red pepper flakes (you can use any type you like)
1 tsp salt
1 egg
¼ cup all purpose or whole wheat flour

Take a small pan and add 2 tbsp of olive oil, sauté the leeks and carrots until softened, then transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely. While that is cooling, cut off the crust from the bread and crumble the soft part either by hand or in a food processor. You should have about ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. After the sautéed vegetables are cooled, add the ground beef, breadcrumbs, cumin, Antep red peppers, salt and egg. Mix well until combined. Let the mixture rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then take them out and divide into 8 equal pieces. Make round or oval patties.  Heat the rest of the 4 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Drench the patties in flour on both sides and fry them over medium heat until both sides are crispy and the inside is cooked through. Serve immediately with a side of your choice. Afiyet olsun!!!

*If you use freshly made breadcrumbs, köfte will be much softer on the inside.