Seasonal focus: leeks
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Although it seems they’re just about coming to the end of their best, with St David’s Day kicking off the month of March, it would seem wrong not to give a mention to the leek.
While Max Boyce has been known to carry an enormous leek on stage and rumour has it that in historic legend that King Cadwaladr asked his soldiers to wear them on their helmets in battle to help tell them apart from the Saxon enemy, there is definitely plenty to be said for keeping leeks on our plates and in our bellies.
One of the most off-putting things about leeks can be cleaning them as dirt always seems to find it’s way in between the tightly packed layers. If you’re using chopped leeks it can be a lot easier as, once you’ve chopped off the end and the flags you don’t want, you can cut the leeks in half lengthwise and chop up before popping them in a bowl of cold water and giving them a good rinse with your fingers. Then either drain them in a colander or use a salad spinner. Alternatively there is always the ready prepared option!
Or if your recipe calls for whole leeks you could try compromising a little by cutting them and placing them in the dish cut side down to give the impression of whole leeks. In which case, to wash them cut them in half lengthwise and hold them at the bottom under a running tap and gently bristle out the layers with your fingers to get at the dirt. Or if you absolutely must keep them whole, discard the green top bits you don’t want but don’t chop off the very bottom of the leek. Make some incisions lengthwise from the top down (but not all the way to the bottom) and again run the leeks under the tap and use your fingers to get at the dirt through the cuts you’ve made. Then chop off the bottom and, still under the tap, gently squeeze and rub the leek between your fingers to try to get the water to run through the leek.
There are plenty more tips and ideas on the best way to clean leeks on YouTube.
But their delicate flavour is worth the effort. Delicious simply steamed or fried topped with a knob of butter and lots of freshly ground black pepper, or in a delicious creamy, cheesy gratin.
Or for an extra Welsh-y rarebit, fry up some chopped leeks until they’re just getting soft. I like to add in some chillies so do it while the leeks are frying, though it’s really according to taste. While the leeks are frying, sort out your toast. When the leeks are done add them to a bowl with some grated cheese and egg (quantities depending on how many you’re making and your taste but I would probably say one egg to two pieces of toast) and at this point throw in any bits you like to add e.g. mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, etc., and salt and pepper. Mix it all around and then dollop the mixture onto the toast and pop it all back under the grill until it’s all bubbly, growing on top and the egg is done. Enjoy!