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Leeks

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                                      Leek Salads

Leeks make succulent and tasty cooked salads, usually most flavoursome served at room temperature rather than icy cold. They can be simply cooked and dressed or combined with a range of spices and flavourings. The two essentials are good olive oil and lemon juice.
Don’t be tempted to boil leeks and then dress them: I always find boiled leeks slimy instead of soft and succulent and they loose a lot of flavour; so cook them gently in oil and lemon juice with a little salt and pepper, let them cool and then add extra seasonings.
The simplest salad is made with leeks cut into 2cm lengths, cooked slowly in olive oil and a little lemon juice until they are soft; don’t let them brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a little extra lemon juice and leave to cool.
While the leeks are still hot add spices like nutmeg, ginger or cumin. If you want to add herbs like parsley, fresh coriander, oregano, chervil or tarragon wait until the leeks have cooled a bit or the heat in the leeks will cook the herb, altering its flavour.
Leek salad acquires a more complex range of flavours if you dress the cold leeks with yoghurt. Again don’t add a yoghurt dressing while the leeks are hot or the yoghurt may curdle. Put 3 or 4 tablespoons of yoghurt into a bowl, add a little salt and the ground spice of your choice, cumin is particularly good. Stir and leave to infuse while the leeks cool. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt dressing over the leeks and stir to incorporate, then spoon some more dressing over the top and sprinkle with a little chopped fresh herb. Or you can make a salad that is quite a substantial dish:

LEEKS À LA GRECQUE
Leek salads photoDespite the name this is a French rather than a Greek dish though my Greek friends enjoy it very much. My Mum, who is English, made it often so it obviously has international appeal. It is supposed to be eaten cold, or at least at room temperature but I sometimes serve it hot in winter. The aroma of saffron and blend of olive oil and lemon juice make it a natural accompaniment for eastern Mediterranean food and it is a particularly useful dish when sunny Mediterranean vegetables are in short supply.

 Time taken 1 hour 15 minutes                                  Serves 4

3 large or 4 medium leeks
2 medium tomatoes or half a tin of chopped tomatoes or 1 heaped teaspoon tomato pur
ée mixed with a little water
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
juice half a lemon
2 or 3 good pinches of saffron threads
salt and ground black pepper
Clean and prepare the leeks and chop them into lengths that will conveniently fit into your baking dish. Pack in a double layer interspersing white and green lengths and using the short bits to fill in the corners. Lay the tomato slices on top or tip on the tinned tomatoes or purée. Then season with salt and pepper, pour on the lemon juice and then the olive oil which will carry the other seasonings down through the dish. Finally sprinkle on the saffron threads. Bake in a moderate oven 180℃ or Gas 4 for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Don’t let it burn so cover the top with foil or greaseproof paper if it is beginning to colour before all the leeks seem soft.
If you are going to keep the dish for a while before eating it, cover it while it is cooling so that the top stays moist and perfumed with the saffron.