3 posts in as many days, umm, think I may be avoiding work.
But, I have good reason for procrastination. I want to write about this whippet of a recipe, well assembly of ingredients really, while I still have the taste of it on my lips. For the contents of this plate of leeks vinaigrette is now happily residing in our bellies, alongside far to much freshly baked pizza bianca from the bakery Passi which sits dangerously close, sniffing distance in fact, to our flat.
I am rather fond of leeks, the softly softly of the onion family, they are as much of a staple as onions in our kitchen. But they are not only the quiet, flavourful base for soups and stews, they often play a starring role, braised with beef and chicken for cockie – leekie or filled with lean lamb, rice and spices for stuffed leeks or my favorite, souped up with potatoes for an ice cold Vichyssoise.
I very fond of warm steamed leeks but when they are served coated in good vinaigrette, scattered with chopped hard boiled eggs and some snipped chives, very fond becomes very very very.
I first ate something like this is France on one of our annual holidays, I was very little, I don’t remember where, but I do remember the owner presenting me with very small glass of wine, diluted with a just a little water so I felt like the French children on the next table and then loving the slippy, delicately stringy texture of the leeks and mopping up the vinaigrette with baguette.
I can’t help but think, and smile, of my grandpa Roddy when I cook leeks, he was not a fan of our long friend- complaining they upset his digestion, he was obsessed with his digestion, it was one of his favorite subjects – he claimed leeks tainted the breath, hehe tainted the breath.
Given the appropriate quantity of good bread I will happily risk tainted breath and eat just this for lunch, so will Vincenzo, but he will complain about the lack of pasta, buts that is normal, he always bemoans the lack of pasta. But in slightly more modest quantities with more bread restraint it makes a lovely starter for an informal lunch or supper. No portioning out is really required, you all dive in to a communal plate armed with knifes and little scoops of bread.
It goes without saying that fine, fresh leeks are in order, no fusty or woody ones make the grade. Also, I only use the white and very pale green part of each leek, saving the dark green leaves for the stock pot where their coarse nature and tough texture can be utilized best.
I always need to be reminded to wash, wash, wash leeks, nobody like grit with their lunch and leeks are masters at hiding it between even the deepest layers.
Oh dear, quantities, this is all rather vague, I have gone all dizzy, in the way I do when asked something mathematical. How many are you cooking for? Is it lunch or a starter? How hungry/greedy are you feeling? how big are your leeks?
Dizziness gone. I have regained my composure.
So, lets say this serves 2 for lunch- 2 leeks each and 4 as a starter – 1 leek each. If you leeks are slim and thumb thickness, lucky you, use 8 leeks.
I have to give credit to Simon Hopkinson who, as he so often does, reminded me of this recipe when I bought his great book Roast chicken and other stories a couple of years ago. This recipe is his, adapted and messed around with by me.
SH suggests you use a flavourless oil such as groundnut for the dressing as olive oil is too fruity. I myself like the fruity depth of olive oil but soften it by using half olive oil and half groundnut. The olive oil question also depends very much on what type of olive oil you are using, I tend to use Italian extra virgin olive oil from Sabina in Lazio which is a DOP and works beautifully.
- 4 medium or 8 slim leeks, trimmed and washed with only 1 inch of green left.
- salt and pepper.
- 1tsp smooth Dijon mustard
- 1tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3tbs groundnut of other flavourless oil
- 2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped
- 1tbsp snipped chives
So you have already trimmed and washed and washed and washed your leeks. Plunge the leeks into fast boiling, well salted water and cook until tender but not mushy.
Drain the leeks and allow them to cool a little. Don’t refresh the leeks in cool water, it may make the green greener, but you lose so much flavour into the water.
Now work swiftly, you want to dress the leeks while they are still a little warm.
In a heavy bowl dissolve a good pinch of salt in the vinegar. Now whisk in the mustard and then while still whisking pour in the two oils (another person is very handy at this point) and half a tbsp of water to help the dressing emulsify.
Slice the leeks longways and arrange on a plate, cut side upwards.
Dribble the dressing over the leeks and then scatter the finely chopped hard boiled eggs, chives and finish with a good grind of black pepper.
Serve with plenty of good crusty, fresh bread.