Fresh leeks seem to be one of those fabulous vegetables that are often sadly overlooked these days. They’re definitely not as popular as tomatoes or onions, they’re not weird enough to stand out, like rutabaga or romanescu, and they mostly go unnoticed. Which is a shame, because not only are leeks versatile and healthy, but also they are packed full of remarkable flavour.
The softy of the onion family, you will find fresh leeks in every chef’s walk-in fridge; they form an integral part of the classic “Mirepoix”, a combination of chopped carrots, celery, leeks, onions and herbs used to add flavour and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods.
I’m a big fan of leeks. As I young chef in the eighties, I remember eating at the 3 Michelin-starred Marco Pierre White’s and trying his Pressed terrine of leeks and langoustine tails with caviar and thinking that it was just about the best thing I’d ever eaten. This beautiful terrine was the perfect marriage of sea and earth, simply made with boiled leeks and cooked & shelled langoustine tails pressed into a terrine mould. When sliced, the layers created a stunning green, white and red mosaic. It was then garnished with a generous spoonful of caviar. That fantastic dish will live in my memory forever.
Like garlic and onion, leeks are a member of the allium family, but have their own distinct flavour. When cut they have a beautiful variation in colour. They go from white down by the root, to a yellow center, to a really dark green at the top. Cut the leek just below the really dark green part. Those really dark, green leaves are very tough and should be saved for the stockpot or soups.
Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish. I Love chilled leeks with a simple vinaigrette or served hot with hollandaise sauce. They marry well with tomatoes, peas, bacon & potatoes. Serve them with cheese sauce and grilled salmon or try this delicious Spanish style monkish with saffron, mussels and leeks.
MONKFISH TAILS WITH MUSSELS, SAFFRON & LEEKS
Ingredients Serves 4
4 monkfish tails, 220g each
400g mussels, cleaned & de-bearded
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
½ tsp saffron
½ tsp paprika
250g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
350ml dry white wine
300ml fish stock
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and seal the monkfish tails on both sides for 1-2 minutes. Remove the monkfish and set aside. Add the chopped onion, leeks, saffron, paprika and garlic to the saucepan. Cook over gentle flame for 2-3 minutes until the onions and leeks start to soften. Add the tomatoes, white wine and fish stock. Cook over a gentle flame for 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the mussels and reserved monkfish fillets. Cover with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes until all the mussels have opened. Season to taste, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.
By Marc Fosh – Michelin Star Chef