Full of flavour and incredibly versatile, the humble leek is a staple vegetable during the autumn and winter months. Related to onions and garlic, but with a milder, sweeter taste, it works perfectly in comforting dishes, such as soups, pies and stews.
The root vegetable has strong links with Wales, where it is also the national symbol. They're also the mainstay of the restorative Scottish soup cock-a-leekie.
As well as being cheap to buy, a leek counts towards your five a day. In addition, this vegetable contains fibre, and vitamins A, C and K.
Here are some top tips for buying, preparing and storing leeks, ideas of what to cook with them and some recipes for you to try at home.
- The bigger the leek, the tougher it will be, so look for smaller and thinner ones as they'll be sweeter in flavour.
- Baby leeks cook very quickly, so are ideal if you're in a rush.
- Make sure they're firm, white and unblemished.
Preparing and storing tips
- To prepare, trim the roots and remove the dark green part of the tops, cut in half, then wash under a running tap to clean thoroughly as soil may be trapped in between the leaves.
- Slice to sauté, pan fry or boil – or bake whole or in halves.
- Leeks will keep in the fridge for up to a week. However, their strong aroma may transfer to other food, so keep them wrapped.
How to use them in your cooking
- Perfect with white fish – boil for 2–3 minutes, then drain and add chopped herbs, extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- An ideal side dish – drizzle with olive oil and roast with other root vegetables for 30 minutes.
- Add to soups, risottos or pasta – pan fry or sauté in a little olive oil for 5–10 minutes until tender.
- Make an omelette – pan fry in a little rapeseed oil with mushrooms and a rasher of bacon, then add whisked eggs and cook until the edges are golden. Finish off by cooking until the grill.
- Bake in a potato gratin or shepherd’s pie.
- Use the dark green tops in your homemade vegetable stock.
- Add raw to a salad to give it some bite.