Leeks have been cultivated since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and were probably part of the diet of those who built the pyramids. Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician and ‘father of medicine’ prescribed the leek as a cure for nosebleeds.
Like garlic and onion, leeks are a member of the allium family, but have their own distinct flavour - quite harsh when raw (only very young leeks are eaten this way) but, when cooked, very delicate, like a mild onion but with a hint of sweetness. Two thirds of their length is white and firm, and this is the part that is mainly eaten. The rest of the third is made up of the leaves (flags), most of which is discarded, although some may wish to use them whilst making broth.
Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish, like this recipe suggestion for Cheesy leeks which are great as a side dish for roast chicken – especially if you are serving vegetarians as well as meat eaters. This recipe makes enough for a generous supper for two or a vegetable accompaniment for four.
Ingredients4 slender leeks (around 575g/1lb 4½oz total weight), trimmed
Serves 2 - 4
Serves 2 - 4
20g/¾oz butter, plus extra for greasing
20g/¾oz plain flour
200ml/7fl oz milk, semi-skimmed or full-fat
1 tsp English or Dijon mustard
100g/3½oz mature cheddar cheese, or other cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp dried white breadcrumbs (ideally panko breadcrumbs), optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7. Lightly butter a shallow baking dish. (It will need to hold around 1 litre/1¾ pint.)
2. A third-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Remove any tough or damaged leaves from the outside of the leeks if not already done. Trim the leeks, leaving all of the white part and some of the green.
3. Cut the leeks into roughly 3cm/1¼in pieces and add to the water. Return to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, or until the leeks are tender. They are ready when the tip of a knife slides in easily. Drain in a colander over a large mixing bowl to reserve the cooking water.
4. To make the sauce, return the empty pan to the heat, add the butter and melt gently. Stir in the flour and cook for 10–15 seconds stirring. Gradually add the milk and then a ladleful (around 100ml/3½fl oz) of the reserved cooking liquid, stirring or whisking well between each addition to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
5. Add the mustard, half the cheese and season generously with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 1–2 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Scatter the leeks into the baking dish and pour the sauce on top. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, if using, and sprinkle on top. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.
From an original idea here
All the best Jan