CROPSHARE #5: Leeks
Leek, or Allium porrum, is a cultivar of a wild leek and is related to such vegetables as onions, shallots, chives, garlic. Leeks have been in cultivation at least since Ancient Egypt as the drawings of leeks were found on tombs of that era.
Leek cultivated in the UK and other parts of Europe is adapted to thrive in cooler climates. It is tolerant of frost and makes a great winter vegetable when there’s scarcity of other veg.
Leeks have an onion-like taste, but sweeter. The white part of the leek is the edible one, the top dark greens parts are less so as they are less tender, but they hold more nutrition, so it should be reserved and used in making stocks. The green part can be used as part of French cooking herbs combination known as Bouquet garni: it’s great for enveloping thyme, parsley stems, bay leaf and then securing it all with a cooking twine.
To clean leek for cooking, you should cut it across lengthwise but not too deep, so that the two parts are still attached. Start at just above the base and run the knife across to the green tops. This way it’s easier to wash away the dirt hiding in its many layers without the leek falling apart. If you will be cooking leek in rings, you can slice the leek first and then add the rings in a bowl of water to soak.
Leeks can be eaten raw when very young, but because of their strong and harsh flavour they are best when cooked. Leeks are used to add flavour to soups and stews, playing there a supporting role. However, it can also be cooked as the centre of a meal. Leeks are best cooked till just tender. You can cook them whole by first blanching them in hot water and refreshing in icy water. Then it can be sautéed, grilled or roasted. Braising leeks is another great technique to cook leeks. Leek cut in rings and sautéed is a nice topping for any kind of root mash.
Poppy’s Leek and Potato soup
I like quite a green, leek-y soup. You can vary the recipe according to how potato-y or leek-y you like it!
This recipe has an extra umami taste – seaweed. I like the salty flavour it adds. Plus seaweed is super nourishing for us, full of vitamins and minerals, including iodine. I particularly like the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company Welsh kelp.
2-3 cloves of garlic
dried seaweed (kelp)
stock (I use Bouillon)
dash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Chop onion into fine chunks.
2. Sautee in olive oil in a medium sized pan on a slow low heat. Cook until the onion starts turning transparent.
3. Add finely sliced garlic and chilli, stir.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your leeks – make sure you give them a good rinse and chop roughly. I like chopping the lower half of the leek into coins, then I slice the top half of the leek down the middle, rinse it and slice it roughly.
5. Add leeks to the pan, stir until golden.
6. Meanwhile, peel your potatoes, chop into small cubes and add to pan.
7. Give it a stir and then pour around 500 ml-750 ml of boiling water. I tend to make sure all the veg are covered and it is not too liquidy, but it depends how thick you like your soup.
9. Add a teaspoon of seaweed.
10. Simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure the potato is cooked.
11. Cool a little, roughly blend and serve with salt and pepper and maybe a
slice of some sourdough.