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Recipes

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celery and Celeriac

Courgettes

Herbs

Leeks

Leek and Potato Soups

Leek and Barley Soup

Leeks Salads

Creamy Leek Sauce

Leek and Bacon Sticks

Potatoes

Rhubarb

Spinach etc.

Leeks

leeks preparationLeeks are a hardy vegetable that will sit in the ground all winter shrugging off frost and snow. In fact they become sweeter after they have experienced some cold weather as some of the starches in them are converted to sugars. They are one of the few vegetables you can prise out of frozen ground and bring into the kitchen, stiff as a board, that will not collapse into horrible mush when thawed and cooked. So no need to try to store them. They will keep for about a week in a cool place but after that the outer leaves begin to dry and go papery and there is much more wastage.
Leeks are available to buy from late summer through to early spring and, by choosing varieties that mature in succession, you can dig them from the garden for at least six months of the year. Towards the end of the season they start to develop a hard core in the middle which is the stem of their flower; if they are bolting, that is trying to flower early, you can find this solid core even in the autumn. Early on it can be soft enough to use, especially in soups, but after the New Year it is likely to be tough and will have to be discarded. Once your leeks have reached the stage of being mostly hard core and tough outer leaves it is time to compost the stragglers.

Leeks are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, and were extensively used by the ancient Egyptians. There are many wild alliums but even the leek’s ancestor, Allium ampeloprasum, lacks the sweet, mild onioniness of the cultivated forms. They are an important component of many cuisines but strangely went out of fashion in polite circles of England from the 16th to the mid 20th centuries: they were thought to taint the breath and, like garlic, were avoided for fear of giving offence. The Scots and the Welsh had more sense and kept eating them.

Leeks are extremely versatile and the only downside to this excellent vegetable is that it can be a little fiddly to clean as earth can get between the leaves as they grow. Always trim off the roots and the flopping ends of the green leaves and then give the whole thing a rough wash. Bought leeks have usually been excessively trimmed so usable bits have been lost. To prepare them for cooking peel off the outermost layer, and the next if it looks damaged, and then cut the leeks just below where the white shank turns green and look at the cut end of the white, if you can see any lines of soil caught between the layers, slit the outer leaves with your thumbnail or a sharp knife until you can expose the layer of soil and wash it out. The green ends of the leaves are very tasty and those nearer the middle are quite tender. Discard the tough looking outer ones and open out the inner layers so that you can wash between them; this is where most of the soil, oak leaves and larch needles can be found; trim off tough or broken ends and keep what looks good to eat. There is a great deal of unnecessary mystique about using the white only: many dishes have much better “eye appeal” if you use some of the green too.
Having cleaned your leeks slice them into the lengths the recipe requires. As you cut, if the outer layer doesn’t cut cleanly, because it is stringy, discard it too

Winter Recipes
Leek and Potato Soups
Leek and Barley Soup
Leek Salads
Creamy Leek Sauce
Leek and Bacon Sticks