Leeks Stuffed with Chicken and Chestnuts

Pirasa Sarma


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in


By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

Chestnuts are a favourite Turkish street food in winter, sold from wood-fired braziers by hawkers who probably sell ice cream in the summer.

Bursa, a town near Istanbul, is famous for its chestnuts (and its Iskender kebap— see). It is in the foothills of Mount Uludağ, which has forests full of chestnut trees.

In this meze, I’ve paired the chestnuts with leeks, another winter ingredient. It involves a fair bit of folding, as you’re required to turn a tube into a triangle. Don’t get hung up on a perfect fold. Anything vaguely resembling a three-sided parcel will do, as long as you eat it quickly.


  • 9 chestnuts
  • 3 large leeks
  • 220 g ( oz/1 cup) short-grain rice
  • 1 French shallot (eschallot)
  • 50 ml (1⅔ fl oz) olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300 g (10½ oz) minced (ground) chicken
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (to make your own, see)
  • 1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste (see)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 50 g ( oz) craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 5 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley stalks
  • 5 dill stalks

Capsicum Sauce


You can use frozen or tinned chestnuts, as long as they are skinned. If using fresh chestnuts, cut a cross in the flat base, place in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and leave to cool, then peel the skin off. Roughly chop the chestnuts.

Remove the roots and green tops from the leeks, then rinse to remove any dirt. Slice down one side of each leek and peel off the outer two layers. Wash these thoroughly, flatten them out and place them across the bottom of a saucepan.

Peel off another four layers of each leek and place in a separate saucepan. Reserve the remaining white centres. Add 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) of salted water to the second pan, bring to boil and then simmer for 5 minutes until the leek sheets are translucent and soft. Transfer to a bowl of iced water for 2 minutes to refresh. These twelve pieces are the leek skins you are going to stuff.

Wash the rice under cold running water. Finely chop the cores of the leeks and finely chop the French shallot. Finely crush the garlic. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chestnut pieces and the shallots. Fry for 1 minute, then add the chopped leeks, garlic and the minced chicken and fry for 2 minutes more. Add the rice, then grate in the tomato. Fry for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste, capsicum paste, spices and cranberries, and stir to combine. Add 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes, covered. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped parsley and dill, close the lid, and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Pick up one sheet of leek skin and put a heaped tablespoon of mixture onto one side. Fold the edges over to make a tight triangular parcel. Repeat to stuff the remaining leek skins.

Put the parcels into the first leek-skin covered pan, folded sides down, on top of the spread skins. Pack them in tightly. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of warm water and put a small bread and butter plate on top to hold the parcels down. Put the lid on and simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the capsicum paste, pomegranate molasses and salt, and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the parcels from the pan. Place three parcels on each plate. Drizzle the capsicum sauce over the top and serve.