Leeks are the gangly teenage boy of the onion family: they’re both slightly grubby around the edges, and can be very awkward in the wrong context. The talents of both are underappreciated by many.
Leeks have a milder, sweeter flavour than other alliums, so do better as a main element of a dish rather than as a base, contrasting with their shallot or white-onion cousins. Happily, unlike the other members of the onion clan, or indeed real teenage boys, leeks do not make you cry when you use them.
Here’s 10 of my favourite suggestions to deal with any annoying leeks in your kitchen. If you find a leek in the shower, don’t worry – you can harvest it and make use of the tips, recipes and tricks below before a sneaky plumber gets there first.
- Make Leek and Potato Soup
This is laughably easy, and can also be veganised if you swing that way.
Slice up 2 leeks into thin rings. Chop two medium floury potatoes into chunks – I never bother peeling mine. Fry an onion in olive oil or butter in a large saucepan, and add the leeks. Put the lid on and saute them gently for 10 minutes. While this is going on, put your potato chunks in a big tupperware container with a splash of water and nuke on high in the microwavé for 10, lid slightly ajar. This just speeds up cooking time later on. Tip the par-cooked spuds into the saucepan with about a litre of stock and boil the hell out of it for 5-10 minutes or until the spuds are super soft. Adjust it for seasonings. Add some milk or cream if you like, and then blend it to a silky smooth soup.
If your boyfriend has dropped your flatmate’s blender on the floor, and rendered it useless due to a large crack in the jug, you’ll have to use the potato masher and live with chunkier soup for a bit.
2. Make Leek, Gruyere and Bacon Pancakes
Here’s a handy recipe I wrote a few weeks ago. It involves not-very-studenty ingredients but there’s fair justification for this, plus you get to find out what to do if you completely over-salt a dish.
3. Use a pair of inverted leeks as the world’s most meta salad servers
Anyone who has studied philosophy won’t know what’s hit them.
Your new salad servers will score low on the reusability scale but make up for it by being highly biodegradable.
4. Make a creamy chicken & leek pie
Fry a leek in some olive oil and when it’s nearly cooked, add two diced chicken thighs and brown them. Season it, you wazzock, then add and evaporate off a glass of white wine. Drink the rest of the bottle for shits and giggles. Before the alcohol hits your system, make a small batch of white sauce. If you don’t know how to make do this, go and learn it because it’s one of the most useful things you can do in the kitchen, bar chopping onions. Add the chicken thighs and leeks to the white sauce, season it again if you need to (add some wholegrain mustard and some chopped parsley here too). Pour that into a dish that’s big enough and top it with a puff pastry lid. Or shortcrust; up to you. Bake that in the oven at 200 for 25 or so minutes and serve it with buttery greens and mash.
I need someone better versed in pies (i.e. not a filthy southerner like me) to tell me if chicken pie is traditionally served with gravy in the same way as its steak and ale cousin. If you’ve drunk enough wine, you probably don’t care either way.
5. Gift a 5-inch portion of leek to a small child as a budget-friendly Russian Doll set
Guaranteed entertainment for hours when they try to fit all the bits back together again.
6. Quench a quick quiche quotient.
I maintain that quiche is topologically the same thing as a pie, just inverted on the horizontal plane. This one serves 4(ish). You can make it using a small flan dish if you’re from 1972, but a deeper-sided 20cm cake tin does the job just fine.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Fry off some streaky bacon (2-3 rashers) and a biggish leek until cooked. In a bowl, mix together 3 eggs, a 300ml carton of double cream, a huge handful of grated mature cheddar or other strong cheese. Most quiche recipes tell you to pour the egg mix on top of the veg but I prefer it all homogenous, so add the leek and bacon into the mix once it’s cooled a bit. Add a shagtonne of black pepper and any other seasoning you like here.
Blind bake a shortcrust pastry case at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, or if you want to go crustless, don’t. You can use shop bought pastry here because, like me, it’s cheap, quick and easy. For dessert recipes, which I care about deeply, you should try to make your own sweet shortcrust with an egg yolk. Anyway, we’re on the savoury train, so blind bake some shortcrust pastry using rice, dried beans, or gravel if you’re so inclined. When it’s got a bit of colour on the edges, drag it out of the oven and plop your filling in. Sprinkle with some more grated cheese if remember to, and bake it for another 18-25 minutes or until it’s just wobbly in the middle. Eat hot or cold with a side of horrible misogyny for that authentic 70s vibe.
7. Host an over 18s Strip-Tease Puppet Show
You know what I’m talking about. You’re as desperate to glimpse that creamy, dreamy inner flesh of the sultry leek as much as the next punter. Don’t bother denying it. Leeks come dressed in many layers of green-hued clothing, so do tease your audience for as long as they can bear during your erotic puppetry.
8. Make a simple, buttery, leeky side dish
To go with some partridge you might find in the waitrose reduced section, or indeed any main roast centrepiece. Alternatively, go all Heston and use it to top a cheesecake.
Slice a leek lengthwise and then vertically again into longboi quarters. Chop these up horizontally into 2cm dice, and throw them into a frying pan full of foaming butter. Cook them down, very slowly, and season with black pepper and a touch of apple cider vinegar if it needs it. The natural sweetness from the veg should come out the longer you cook it, but if it’s going too brown too quickly, then move it onto a smaller ring. You can cook these for as long as you like but I found 30 minutes did nicely while I re-read George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl instead of performing statistical analyses on my dissertation data.
9. Play onion golf around your flat
Hear me out: leeks as clubs, and small white onions as balls. And make sure you have patches of spring onions too, to emulate the daffodils for a lovely March-themed game of allium golf.
Wear two pairs of trousers for this, lest you get a hole in one.
10. Fridge-surprise leek and mushroom pasta bake
Boil enough pasta for 6 people until it’s 2-3 minutes away from being cooked. While that’s schmoogling, make a litre of that pesky white sauce again, and this time, add to it some sliced fried mushrooms, some sauteed leeks and anything else you’ve got hanging about in the back of your fridge. Add in all the odds and ends of various cheeses to the sauce and maybe some herbs if you’re feeling that way. You should 100% add nutmeg. Mix the drained pasta with the sauce, pour it into a roasting tin or casserole dish, and sprinkle it with cheese and some breadcrumbs for extra cronch. Bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until it’s bubbly and gooey and golden.
I’ll leave you with one last general tip: do wash your leeks properly, as their many orifices can be a haven for dust, dirt, sand and bad thoughts, which you definitely don’t want anywhere near your food.
So there you have it. 10 ways to fix a leek in the kitchen. Go forth and enjoy, or go third and write me a haiku in the comments.