Because of its health-giving properties and its delicate sweet flavor, the leek is an extremely versatile vegetable that complements almost any savory dish from roast chicken to ham omelette. Stir some leek into bulgar wheat or couscous and eat it cold, or make it the base of a piping hot thick, chunky soup.
Here’s a recipe for a warming leek and bacon soup to which you can add some crunchy bacon croutons:
LEEK AND BACON SOUP
4 rashers chopped back bacon, preferably smoked
Hint of olive oil
4 large leeks
Salt and pepper
1 litre of vegetable stock
150ml single cream
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Saute the chopped bacon in the oil and butter until crisp. Trim and chop the leeks crossways, wash them in cold water and drain. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Remove the bacon from the stove on to kitchen paper to remove excess fat. Put potatoes and leeks into the pan. Add salt and pepper and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Pour into a liquidiser and blend. Return to a clean pan, add the milk and reheat. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with a swirl of cream, parsley and crispy bacon.
Here’s another leek recipe. It’s a British version of one that is often on the menu in French restaurants:
LEEKS AU GRATIN
1 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
150g mature Cheddar
2 slices lean ham
Thick slice of wholemeal bread
1 bay leaf
Trim and cut the leeks lengthways. Wash them in cold water. Boil in lightly salted water for 10 minutes until tender. Drain, leaving a few tablespoons of the cooking water to one side. Lay the leeks lengthways in a gratin dish. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour. Mix to a smooth paste and add the reserved water and milk. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf. Bring liquid to the boil slowly, stirring throughout. Simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes, them remove from the heat.
Grate the cheese and add half to the sauce, stirring until the cheese melts. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Break ham into pieces and pop it between the leeks. Pour the sauce over the top, completely covering the ham and leeks. Crumb the bread, mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese and scatter over the top of the dish. Pop into a preheated oven at 425F/220C/Gas Mark 7, for about 20 minutes until topping is golden.
These days I make sure that my kitchen garden always contains a few rows of this delicious, versatile vegetable.