When the autumn chill settles in, we naturally turn towards more hearty, warming and comforting food. Luckily, there are plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables to tuck into to after those autumnal walks.
History of Leek
Let’s take a humble, often overlooked leek. People grew leek since ancient times, for example Egyptians or Greeks. For the Romans it was a top dog amongst vegetables. Nowadays it seems to loose its appeal and little is known that leek is considered one of Welsh National Symbols. Allegedly introduced by Phoenician traders, leek was associated with St David and Welsh victory over invading Saxons.
It gained a reputation of being a magical vegetable, offering healing qualities. A very hardy plant which can be left on a field during winter months to harvest it when you need. Fresh, green stuff in the middle of winter, how cool is that?! Leek is a basic ingredient in the very popular leek and potato soup, an ultimate winter soup and leek is at its best in a late autumn and winter. A very welcomed green vegetable during dark, long days when other vegetation is long gone - hence maybe it is how it got the magical notoriety.
Fresh Leek in Winter
I love a mild tartiness of a fresh leek. Leek belongs to the same family as an onion, but it has a more delicate flavour. Shredded leek gives salads a great zing: for example it turns sometimes overpowering beetroot’s sweetness into such an irresistible concoction that I simply cannot help hoovering it from my plate. Other times, you can use leeks to garnish your meals instead of fresh herbs.
I often use it to refresh everyday mashed potatoes to serve as a quick weekly side dish. Peel, wash and cut potatoes in a big cubes. Cook potatoes in water salted with coarse Guerande salt. They will be ready once they fall apart when probed with a fork. Drain potatoes and leave them in a pot for a minute or two to let some steam off. Alternatively, steam them in a colander over the boiling water. Add about a spoonful of soft butter and mashed potatoes until creamy.
Sauté that Leek
While potatoes are cooking, turn your attention to the leeks. You will need to wash it well and clean off any soil, then chop it into coins. On a hot, thick bottom pan, melt some clarified butter, ghee, and sauté the leek until it becomes tender but not falling apart. Make sure not to burn it! You would like to retain some its texture when you add it to potatoes.
Next, you fold in the leeks into mashed potatoes and season with crushed black pepper and Fleur de Sel to taste. Serve leek and potatoes straight way with stew or roasted meats.
1 large leek
1 kg of potatoes
1 heaped tablespoon of ghee / clarified butter
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of Grey Coarse Guerande salt
1 pinch of Fleur de sel