יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G d and the G d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be cut down.
No, you’re still not on a Bible study blog as some may have thought since my Texas style beef ribs recipe.
However, this week marks the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Thursday will be the first day of year 5775. The opportunity for 196F to feature traditional recipes of this holiday.
The Jewish New Year, like any new year, is marked by the renewal. During Rosh Hashanah, this renewal is celebrated with seasonal fruits and vegetables that are getting picked around the months of September and October. Last year, we chose to publish recipes that were not related to the holiday but that showcased key ingredients of this festival such as pomegranate, dates and sesame seeds.
The recipe I chose this week is a typical Sephardic Rosh Hashanah recipe. Sephardic Jews are the Jews from Spain who migrated across southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Vera and I are Sephardic Jews because our parents are from North Africa.
Keftes are fried patties or croquettes made of meat, fish, chicken or vegetables, and sometimes simmered in a sauce as we showed you with our Pakistani koftas.
These same keftes have several names depending on the country or region of origin. They are called chifteles or kiftaln in Romania, kiofte in the Balkans, keftede or keftike in Greece, or kofta in Hebrew.
Before the expulsion from Spain, the Sephardim used to prepare ground meat as albondigsa (meatballs) or rollos (meatloaf). When they migrated to the Ottoman Empire, they adapted the concept by first adopting the Middle Eastern word kufta (meatballs) and by adding their special touch.
The result was keftes. Typical of Sephardic cooking, they can be made with meat (kefte de carne) or more frequently, vegetables which are often mixed with meat. These patties can also be composed entirely of vegetables like leeks (keftes de prasa) or spinach (keftes de espinaca). They can also be made with poultry (keftes de gallina) or fish (keftes de pescado).
Keftes are often a tasty trick to use leftovers such as cooked fish or mashed potatoes (keftes de patata). These patties are often simmered in lemon or tomato sauce. They are often presented in a tray with lemon wedges or tahina (sesame seed sauce) or even as a sandwich in pita bread.
Sephardic keftes can be served as an appetizer, a side dish or a main course. Keftes being fried, they are often prepared for Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) where beignets and fried food like latkes are traditionally served. Leek or spinach fritters are traditionally on Rosh Hashanah and Pesach (Passover) tables.
The symbolism of leeks comes from a pun on its name in Hebrew, karti, which is similar to yikartu, which means being cut. The yehi rason оf karti is a wish that the enemies of the Jews will be “cut off” or destroyed.
The basic recipe for those leek fritters is Turkish but it was exported to neighboring countries and the Balkans with different names.
Popularly known as prasafuchies or even ejjeh b’kerrateh in Syria, those leek fritters are often served on a platter garnished with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs.
I chose the Syrian version because it contained typical spices and it seemed more interesting in terms of taste. But there are several versions of these keftes de prasa. When they include meat in addition to leeks, they are referred to as keftes prasa y carne. They may also include potato or matza (unleavened bread) flour in their Passover version.
There are also two schools when it comes to pre-cooking the leeks: boiled or fried. I tried both versions and the pre-fried leeks version seemed tastier to me. Not only because of its calorie and fat count (although it probably helped) but also because of the texture of the leeks that is lost when they are boiled.
The addition of allspice and Aleppo pepper gives this recipe the necessary touch to make this dish one that I will probably make quite regularly.
I discovered Aleppo pepper with my muhammara recipe and I must say that I use this crushed chili spice quite frequently in a of my dishes since.
What surprised me in this ejjeh b’kerrateh recipe was the addition of allspice but I discovered in my research that this spice was actually made popular by the Jews!
Indeed, when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in search of peppercorns (pimiento in Spanish), he found out that the indigenes used dried berries from a local myrtle tree. In fact, it was one of the few native spices in the Western Hemisphere. It is said that allspice is a spice that has the flavor and aroma of a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Some even find traces of pepper or ginger. Hence its name!
Early on, Sephardim have traded allspice as well as cocoa and vanilla. After the English took over Jamaica from the Spain and soon after the authorization of Jews to migrate to England, Sephardim continued to trade this spice whose success has spread to England and the United States among other countries. If you like this spice or want to discover it, go take a look at some of our recipes that use it.
These leek fritters were really excellent. I served them as a main dish for dinner last Shabbat dinner with different salads as sides. My wife Anne, who is usually rather picky, loved the combination leek and beef like in my Albanian dish.
Our friend Laurence invited us for Rosh Hashanah and you can be sure these ejjeh b’kerratehs or keftes de prasa will certainly make an apparition on her table.
Shana Tova to all our readers!
- 4 leeks
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (or matzo meal)
- 3 eggs
- 1 lb ground beef (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Wash the leeks well to remove dirt.
- Cut off and discard the green parts, roots and outer leaves.
- Cut the leeks into thin slices and place in a large bowl of cold water. Change the water several times. Drain well.
- Place the leeks in a saucepan with water to cover.
- Cover and boil until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside until leeks are cool enough to be handled.
- Take handfuls of cooked leeks and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
- Place the leeks in a large frying pan with oil.
- Sauté for 15-20 minutes until the leeks are tender.
- In a large bowl, combine the leeks, ½ cup of bread crumbs, eggs, Aleppo pepper and allspice. Add salt and pepper.
- The mixture should be thick enough to form patties. If the mixture is too runny, add bread crumbs, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is easy to handle.
- Form patties of about 3 inches diameter and ½ inch thick.
- Dip patties in the remaining bread crumbs and fry in hot oil until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Serve hot with lemon.