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Leek Fritters a la Ottolenghi for Hanukkah

Leek fritters which I will be eating tonight. Yum.

Happy Hanukkah, LGM! Last year, when I posted a recipe for Orna and Ella’s sweet potato latkes (which are awesome, and I hope you’ve all made and devoured them), some of you asked whether I had a recipe for leek latkes as well. At the time, my answer was a kludge–chop up some leeks, add eggs, flour, salt, and pepper, and fry. Since then, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook Plenty, which includes this fantastic recipe for leek fritters. It’s not officially a Hanukkah recipe, but I’m having it tonight, and you should have it whenever you can.

If you’ve made Ottolenghi recipes before, you know they come with a trade-off. There are a million ingredients, and a gazillion steps, and it all feels rather ridiculous while you’re making it. And then in the end it tastes so amazing that you’re almost mad, because you just have to make it again. This recipe requires three bowls—three bowls! For fritters!—and calls for an unequal number of egg whites and yolks, which under any other circumstances would consign a recipe to the outer darkness. On the other hand, it’s also fairly forgiving. I’ve omitted (or forgotten) ingredients, declined to separate the egg, and it’s only in writing this post that I even realized the original recipe calls for self-rising flour (who the hell has self-rising flour on hand? Just use the regular kind). This version is simplified, and I’ve marked where you can simplify it further, because either way, these are really good fritters, and if you’re celebrating Hanukkah or just looking for a nice vegetarian meal, they’re worth making.

Leek fritters, adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

(makes 8-10 large fritters, or 15-20 small ones)

  • 450gr Leeks (two large or three medium)
  • 5 shallots
  • Oil for frying (Ottolenghi calls for olive oil, but any neutral oil will work just as well)
  • 1 red chili pepper (the heat level of chilis in Israeli supermarkets is a moving target; pick one at about the level of heat you’re comfortable with)
  • 25gr parsley (I have no idea how much this is; just grab a bunch)
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (yes, really)
  • 1 tsp sugar (yes, REALLY)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, separated (or not, if you’d rather not bother)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 50gr butter, melted (I’ve omitted this with little effect)
  1. Chop leeks into slices (I also cut them lengthwise, which helps them separate in the pan) and dice shallots. Fry in oil, in a large saucepan over a medium heat, until they’re softened but not brown, about 15 minutes. If you’re planning to separate the egg, take it out of the fridge now to come to room temperature.
  2. While the leeks are frying, chop the pepper very fine (after a particularly bad experience, I always use gloves when chopping chili peppers), and the parsley after removing the stalks. Place in a bowl with the spices, sugar, and salt. When the leeks are done, add to the other vegetables and mix well. Let cool.
  3. While the vegetables are cooling, separate the egg and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the vegetable mixture. (Alternatively, skip this step and just use a whole egg in the batter. The fritters will be less light but still quite nice.)
  4. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, egg yolk (or whole egg), milk, and butter (if using) into a batter. Gently mix the batter into the vegetable and egg white mixture.
  5. Heat more oil in the saucepan over a medium flame. For large fritters, use two spoonfuls per; for smaller ones, just one spoonful. Fry about 2-3 minutes to a side, until brown but not burned.
  6. To serve: I usually just use yogurt as a sauce. Sour cream would probably be great too. The original recipe has a sauce made up of yogurt and sour cream, processed with greens and lemon juice. It sounds good! But you’ll be fine with just yogurt, or a much simpler green sauce.
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