Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish. Two of the world’s most famous soups, Scotland’s cock-a-leekie and France’s crème vichyssoise, are based around them.
How to prepare a leek
Thorough washing is very important for leeks, as soil is often trapped between the many layers of leaves. First, trim off the base, and cut away the uppermost part of the leaves. Remove the outer layer or white, if it’s tough. Then, if you want to keep the leek whole, use a knife to make a slit from the top to the point where the green meets the white, cutting through the centre. Rinse well under running water, pulling back the layers so that any dirt at the base is removed. Alternatively, slice the leeks, then put in a colander and wash well under running water.
How to cook leeks
Steam (up to 8 mins for sliced; up to 16 mins for whole). Pan-fry for up to 8 mins, sliced. Also good as an ingredient in casseroles, tarts, pies and soups.
How to store leeks
In the fridge, for up to a week. As their strong aroma can taint other foods, make sure they are well wrapped.
When are leeks in season?
You can find leeks year round, but they are at their best from September to March.
Choose the best leeks
Look for leeks with a firm, unblemished white lower part, and leaves that are bright green, with a crisp texture. Smaller leeks tend to be sweeter and more tender.
Alternatives to leeks
Leeks are from the allium family like onions and garlic, but have a much sweeter, milder flavour. According to legend, seventh-century Welsh soldiers wore leeks in their hats to distinguish them from the enemy army. Ever since, the allium has been a Welsh national symbol. Choose leeks with bright green tops and trim the root and leaf tops before rinsing well to remove grit and soil.
All the best Jan