Leeks are probably the only fall/winter veggies I actually enjoy eating so I’m always happy to find new ways of cooking them! Pırasa yemeği (dish made of leeks) are braised leeks in olive oil, cooked with carrots, red pepper or tomato paste, lemon and rice.
It’s a very simple Turkish meal that can be served as a mezze or for dinner. It only requires a handful of ingredients and it’s a great and easy way to prepare leeks!
TURKISH BRAISED LEEKS
The red pepper paste adds a touch of bitterness to the sweet vegetables and the lemon juice really gives a lift to the braised leeks. It’s quite a surprising taste if you’re only used to buttered or creamed leeks but you should definitely give it a try! You won’t be able to get enough of it!
Turkish braised leeks are an amazing side to fish or grilled chicken but the rice makes pırasa yemeği hearty enough to be served for dinner. Seriously, you should make extra though because it’s just that good and it makes delicious leftovers.
In France, leeks are mainly eaten in a quiche or gratin, as buttered leeks or blanched with a vinegar-based dressing. Turkish braised leeks are a welcome change and although I do love a good leek tart I couldn’t eat a slice every day. But you can give me pırasa yemeği and I’ll gladly eat it all week long.
OLIVE OIL DISHES
Pırasa yemeği belongs to the special Turkish food category of ‘olive oil dishes’ (zeytinyağlı yemekler). It’s a pretty broad category gathering all the meals made with braised vegetables. The process is practically always the same. First, you sear your vegetables in olive oil, then you add salça (pepper or tomato paste) and cook everything for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients (usually dice onions and grated tomatoes) and some liquid and finishing it off covered.
So many vegetables are prepared this way; green beans (taze fasulye), okra (bamya), eggplants (patlıcan), but also white (fasulye) and borlotti (barbunya) beans. All those meals are equally wonderful but my mother-in-law’s stewed okra and braised leeks have a special place in my heart. Sometimes, chopped cuts of lean meats are added, as well as meat stock instead of water. I’m not a big meat eater, so I very much prefer the vegetarian versions which I find just as tasty!
This recipe for braised leeks comes from (like most of the Turkish recipes on my blog) my in-laws. Evidently, every family has its own ways of making pırasa yemeği, which can slightly differ from one another. Some add diced onions along with the carrots, other pour red wine vinegar in addition to the lemon juice, sometimes grated tomatoes are added. As long as, you get the sourness from the lemon juice and that your braised leeks are fork-tender, you’ll have a delicious pırasa yemeği!
If you want to make sure that your leeks are really clean you can tip the sliced leeks into a bowl of cold water. Then, try to remove any grits with your fingers before draining the leeks in a colander. I usually skip this step to go faster and I simply wash my leeks whole under running water. It’s enough if you bought them from the supermarket and if they already are cleaning. Obviously, if you just dug out leeks from your garden or if you got them at a farmer’s market still covered in earth, it’s a different story.
➝What’s salça? Salça is a paste widely used in Turkish cuisine. It’s made either from red peppers (biber salçası), tomatoes (domates salçası), or a mix of both (karışık salça). You can find spicy biber salçası made from red chili peppers (acı biber salçası) or a mild one made from sweet long peppers (tatlı biber salçası). Salça is added to sauces, soup, stews, olive oil dishes, and many other things. It can also be spread on pide (like you would spread tomato sauce on pizza dough) or it can be used to make dips for breakfast. Salça is integral to Turkish cuisine and you’ll definitely find some in every Turkish grocery store. Chances are that a full aisle will be dedicated to this condiment.
If you don’t live near a Turkish store, you can use tomato paste from the supermarket (preferably without any added sweetener) for any Turkish recipes. Tomato and red pepper pastes are interchangeable in Turkish recipes anyway, each family having their own preferences. Turkish tomato paste tastes a bit more complex than regular tomato paste because it’s made from a reduced tomato sauce that has been sundried until it reached the desired thickness. However, commercially available tomato paste will still do the job.
Are you looking for other Turkish mezze recipes? Here are some of my favorites:
- Creamy pasta salad (Makarna salatası)
- Stuffed vine leaves (Yaprak sarma)
- Carrots with yogurt (Havuç tarator)
- Green lentil salad (Mercimek salatası)
Pırasa yemeği are braised leeks cooked in olive oil with carrots, red pepper or tomato paste, rice and freshly pressed lemon juice. It’s a very simple Turkish dish that can be served as a mezze or for dinner. Its taste will surprise you if you’re only used to buttered or creamed leeks but you should definitely give it a go!
- 1kg leeks, about 4 big leeks
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tatlı biber salçası, or use tomato paste
- 1 tsp of salt, heaped
- 1 big lemon, juiced
- 100g dry rice (½ cup)
- Cut off the leeks’ bulbs and tough tops and peel off the first layers of skin. Discard them. Wash the leeks under running water and try to remove any grit you see with your fingers. Slice the leeks into 1cm (½ in) rings. Set aside.
- Cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a lidded non-stick frying pan. Add carrots and cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Add the red pepper or tomato paste and spread it into the oil and over the carrots with the spoon. Stir in the leeks.
- Add the salt, lemon juice and 700ml (3 cups) of boiling water. Stir well and cover the pan with the lid. Cook for 15 min.
- Stir in the rice, put the lid back on and keep cooking for 15 min to 20 min, until the rice is cooked. Add a bit of water if the rice has absorbed most of the liquid as Turkish braised leeks should be ‘saucy’.
- Let the braised leeks cool down a bit before serving (ideally to room temperature). However, like most Turkish meals made with olive oil, pırasa yemeği tastes better cold! I usually place the braised leeks in my fridge for several hours before serving.
The braised leeks will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Serving Size: 1 plate
- Calories: 508
- Fat: 20.1g
Keywords: turkish mezze, leeks and carrots, olive oil dishes