Recipe: traditional Balkan leek latkes

How to make latkes like they do in the David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem

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There is something ethereal about a candle-lit Chanukah meal in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Thousands of tourists descend upon Jerusalem to experience the festival atmosphere and the glow of myriad menorot, placed by residents outside their homes.

An unmistakable, pungent smell of latkes and sufganiyot (Israeli doughnuts) wafts through the air and many are the sufganiyot selfies taken beside the colourful displays in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda shuk.

Guests who spend Chanukah in the city’s finest hotels can also look forward to some culinary adventures for the festival.

At the David Citadel Hotel, for instance, executive chef Avi Turgeman and his team have created an unusual, Balkan twist on the traditional latke with a rather unexpected ingredient.

Chef’s tips

  • Leek shrinks when cooked. Buy more than you think you will need, even if it looks like too much.
  • Make sure the leek is completely clean. Mud tends to get stuck inside.
  • The squeezing stage is the most critical stage of the recipe and should be done thoroughly. There are no shortcuts. The best way to squeeze the leek is by hand, a small amount each time and repeat a number of times.
  • Do not fry more than five patties at a time, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be reduced and the patties will absorb too much oil.
  • For vegetarian patties, leave out the meat and keep other the quantities the same. Alternatively, in accordance with other traditional Balkan recipes, you may add two boiled potatoes, puréed and drained, instead of the meat.

This dish can be served with parev dips. Chef Turgeman likes to serve his with matamwa, a Lebanese dip made from grilled puréed potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic, salt and pepper.

1. Clean the leek. Cut into thin slices and wash under running water for at least five minutes.

2. Put the leek and the onion in a pot and cover with boiling water. Boil, cover and lower the flame.

3. After half an hour of cooking, drain the leek and onion.

4. Take some leek by hand and squeeze well. Repeat until all the water is drained. Drain the onion similarly (the onion should be easier).

5. After completely draining the leek and onion, mince them. (If a mincer is not available, chop the leek as finely as possible.) Place in a bowl.

6. Add the minced meat, eggs, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs and mix well until a uniform mixture is obtained.

7. Make medium-sized patties.

8. Heat oil in a pan for semi-deep frying. Fry the patties for about five minutes on each side, until they become golden.


1 kg leek (the green and white parts)

1 onion, sliced into quarters

100g minced/chopped meat

2 eggs

½ teasp salt

½ teasp pepper

3 tbsp breadcrumbs

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