Nutritious and Comforting – Seasonal Leeks

Batten down the hatches and beat the winter blues with delicious new recipes developed for the Leek Grower’s Association by UK chef and food consultant Rob Rees MBE.

As the essential ingredient in a simple cassoulet for an everyday supper or dressed up to entertain in a dauphinoise with ham hock, the versatile leek is packed full of anti-oxidants and rich in iron, vitamin B6, folate and vitamin C to keep colds at bay as temperatures plummit.

Leek lovers already know the benefits of this ‘up market onion’ – whether panfried, sauteed, stir-fried, baked, roasted, braised – it has a subtler, sweeter and more sophisticated flavour than onions and is the perfect partner in ham, chicken or cheese dishes.

The British Leek Grower’s Association advices people to look for small or medium-sized leeks with a firm, unblemished white lower part, with bright green leaves and a crisp texture. Smaller leeks tend to be sweeter and more tender.

Try these recipes if you don’t believe us!

The health benefits of leeks are surprisingly wide. For more information and recipes click here.

Leek and Artichoke Dauphinoise with Ham Hock or, for vegetarians, Leeks with Mustard and Mascarpone on Garlic Toast.

Leek and Artichoke Dauphinoise with Ham Hock (pictured above left)
400g Peeled and Sliced Jerusalem Artichokes
2 Trimmed, washed and diced leeks
2 Cloves Garlic (1 crushed)
250g Single Gloucester Cheese (only for the top layer)
250g Double Gloucester Cheese
500 ml Semi Skimmed Milk
250ml Whipping Cream
1 Roasted Ham Hock (gammon steaks or sliced glazed Ham can be used)
35g Unsalted Butter
Milled Pepper
Turn the oven on to 195 degrees. Cut a clove of garlic in half lengthways. Smear the flat open side of the clove around the edges of your oven proof veg dish. This gives it a lovely garlic perfume. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the diced leeks. Cook them until soft and tender. Add the Artichokes, milk, 150ml cream and the remaining crushed garlic. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Gently strain the vegetables from the liquid (but don’t discard the liquid). Layer the bottom of your serving dish with some of the vegetables and sprinkle grated cheese and a tiwst of pepper over the top. Repeat as required in layers until all has been used. Spoon 5 tablespoons of the liquid over your vegetables and then add the final layer of Single Gloucester Cheese. Bake in the oven until golden brown and serve with Ham Hock and buttered sprouts.

Leeks with Mustard and Mascarpone on Garlic Toast
Ingredients: Serves 4
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, cut in half lengthways and cut into ¼ inch half moons and washed again
30g unsalted butter
100ml whipping cream
150g Mascarpone Cheese (or goats cheese)
2 tablespoons of English Parsley finely chopped
1 teaspoon of Tewkesbury mustard (optional)
twist of milled pepper
4 slices of crusty bread
1 peeled clove garlic

Melt the butter in a saucepan on a gentle heat and then add the leeks. Simmer gently for five minutes until the leeks are tender then turn the heat up slightly to reduce any moisture in the pan. Turn the heat down again and add the cream. Boil for about one minute – or until the mixture looks nice and thick. Add the Mascarpone or goatscheese and beat it well into the mixture until melted and bound together. Season with pepper, parsley and the mustard. Toast the bread. Then rub the slices with the garlic, place the leeks on top and serve. You can glaze this mixture under the grill until golden and to gain a better glaze beat a fresh egg yolk into the mix before glazing. Garnish with watercress leaves.

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