This is the first in a new series, with weekly recipes based on seasonal fruit, veg or herbs.
Leeks : the winter pick-me-up
I’m a late convert to growing and cooking leeks and now I can’t get enough of them.
Sauteéd slowly in butter, their flavour is more delicate and sweeter than onions and they have the added bonus of containing lots of minerals and anti-oxidants. Leek and Potato bake, cooked in stock or a rich white sauce is a favourite, sometimes enhanced with some bacon lardons.
The Scots have a number of interesting recipes, including the fabulously named Cock- a- Leekie soup – a hearty vegetable and chicken stew.
Then there’s the famous Vichyssoise, a cold soup of pureéd leeks, potatoes and cream, reputedly made famous by a French chef at The Ritz-Carlton in New York. I love Ina Garten’s (“Barefoot Contessa”) version of this.
Leeks are members of the genus Allium . They are easy to grow from seed and can be harvested through the autumn and into winter; ‘Apollo’ and ‘Toledo’ are good mid to late season cultivars.
Here is my favourite way of using them:
Leek and goat’s cheese tartlets.
500g leeks, well cleaned, halved and sliced finely
375g block of puff pastry (sheets)
4 slices goat’s cheese , rind on
Few sprigs of rosemary
Herb infused oil
A little butter
Heat a knob of butter in a pan until hot, add the leeks, snipped rosemary, s & p and sweat slowly on a low heat for about 20 mins.
Allow to cool. Meanwhile, heat oven to 210C, 200C fan.
Roll the pastry out, cut 4 circles and place on a baking sheet. Spread the cooled leeks over the circles, leaving a border around the edge.
Place a slice of goat’s cheese on top of the leeks and put a sprig of rosemary on top. Brush the border with beaten egg if you like.
Bake for about 25 mins until the pastry is golden.
Serve hot, surrounded with a few salad greens and drizzled with herb infused oil.
Makes a nice starter, or a light lunch dish.