Reach­ing peak leek

Prob­a­bly the most un­der­rated of the al­li­ums, leeks are sweet, del­i­cate and per­fect at this time of the year, says Rachel Allen, who has some de­li­cious recipes for you to try. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - MOURNING SHADOWS -

The al­lium fam­ily is one of the most suc­cess­ful and renowned of the en­tire food spec­trum. Onions form the ba­sis of more dishes than prob­a­bly any other vegetable; gar­lic is used as a flavour­ing across the world, and shal­lots, chives and spring onions find their way into mul­ti­ple soups, sal­ads, sauces and sal­sas. The lovely leek, though, while not as pop­u­lar as its cousins, is just as ver­sa­tile, with its sweet, del­i­cate flavour that can melt into risot­tos, gratins, stews and all sorts of soups.

The prepa­ra­tion of leeks isn’t dif­fi­cult, but it re­quires a few im­por­tant steps. First, cut off the dark green tops. They work well for mak­ing stock, but oth­er­wise they tend to be a bit too strong and tough for use in cook­ing. Then trim off the muddy roots, be­fore peel­ing off the outer tough lay­ers. Wash­ing leeks is also fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant. As they grow, they trap soil in be­tween their sheaths, so a good clean is a must. The best way to wash leeks is to use a knife to make a slit half­way down the leek, then fold out the lay­ers be­neath a run­ning tap and make sure all the dirt has washed away.

Leeks, which are slap-bang in sea­son now, are also lovely on their own, split in half and grilled while they are small and young with but­ter and sea salt — or my favourite way to cook them, which is sliced and gen­tly sauteed with but­ter or olive oil and a tiny splash of wa­ter. Leeks can also be eaten raw, if used care­fully — thinly slice the white part and use it as an al­ter­na­tive to raw red onion or spring onions in sal­ads.

The leek, potato and blue cheese soup, right, is a vari­a­tion of the clas­sic leek and potato soup, mean­ing, in­trigu­ingly, ‘ good woman soup’! It has a more in­tense flavour than sim­ply leek and potato soup; the blue cheese brings a lovely salty tang. We have a su­perb range of blue cheeses in Ire­land (see Rachel Rec­om­mends, far right) so check out one of those for a home-grown ver­sion.

The leek and cheese frit­ters, pic­tured above right, make a de­li­cious light meal or snack. If pos­si­ble, use leeks that aren’t too huge for the most sweet and ten­der re­sult. And the chicken with leeks, ba­con and brandy recipe, far right, is a most com­fort­ing and lux­u­ri­ous dish that does de­li­cious jus­tice to the na­tional em­blem of Wales.

potage bonne femme,

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