A phase

Keeping this blog seems to have both exacerbated and validated my already well established habit of getting preoccupied, you could say slightly fixated, with one ingredient or a particular recipe. At present its leeks. It’s very late in the season I know, but there’s still time for a brief fling.

This Allium porrum phase began at my parents house near London a couple of weeks ago. My Mum has a vegetable garden which despite a hard, very cold and long English winter yielded a pretty fine crop of leeks this year. On the Saturday night – post large gin and tonic – Mum suddenly pulled on her gardening gloves and grabbed a small shovel and disappeared out of the back door. She was swallowed up the dark garden only to reappear a few minutes later beaming and brandishing a big bunch of long, slim leeks with bow-legged curves, scraggly roots and deep green tops. For part of supper she made a warm salad of leeks, cannellini beans, parsley and olive oil. We all agreed it was delicious. It was nice to see leeks taking center stage as opposed to hiding in the chorus. The recipe was jotted down in the notebook along with a general note to cook more leeks.

Back in Rome, where despite the occasional relapse, spring has most definitely sprung, I did just that. First I made the salad my mum had made. You cook three or four slim leeks – which have been halved lengthways and sliced thinly across – gently in plenty of butter, about 15 minutes or until they are soft and deliciously mushy. Then you mix them with some cooked cannellini beans, some lightly cooked peas if you like, a handful of finely chopped parsley, some coarse salt and a few glugs of good olive oil. We also had some goats cheese crumbled on top which is delicious.

But the salad aside it was the gently cooked leeks that really captured me, the ones cooked slowly in plenty of butter. Cooked this way leeks collapse into a soft, pale green, creamy mess, their already mild flavour is even softer and sweeter. On Monday I discovered leeks cooked this way are delicious  just so. Scooped straight from the pan and squashed onto warm toast and seasoned with lots of freshly ground back pepper. On Tuesday I cooked more leeks in this way, really slowly, probably for about 40 minutes. I added a handful of fresh peas in the last five minutes, goats cheese and then stirred in some pasta. Vincenzo declared this his favourite, but he is pasta biased,

Then on Wednesday, yesterday, I made a leek and goats cheese frittata.

A frittata, which I’m sure you know, is a thick, flat and substantial Italian omelette. Like a French omelette a frittata is made with lightly beaten eggs – often enriched with various fillings – cooked in butter. But unlike an omelette, which is soft and runny, a frittata is firm and set – but never dry or rubbery – and never folded

I am very fond of a well made frittata and this one is especially nice. It’s the same gently cooked leeks, stirred with 6 lightly beaten eggs and topped with crumbled goats cheese, cooked on the hob and then finished briefly under the grill. A perfect trio really, simple and understated, the pools of soft, creamy, slightly acidic goats cheese are a perfect foil for the soft mild leeks in a bed of gently cooked eggs.

First prepare the leeks, you need about 250g to make the frittata. Cut off the base and the roots and most of the green top, I leave about 2″ of the pale green part. The darker green part of the leek which has a coarse flavour and a tough texture is very good for the stockpot. Insert a knife just above the base and slice up to the top, thereby splitting the leek in two with the halves still attached at the base. Rinse the leeks carefully under fast running water. Finally slice the leeks thinly across so you have slim half moons.

For this particular frittata you melt a generous slice of butter in a frying pan or skillet and add about 250g of sliced leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the leeks have collapse into a soft, rumpled mess. Allow them to cool a little.

In a large bowl beat 6 – 8 large eggs with a fork until they are evenly mixed and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tip the soft leek mixture in with the eggs and stir gently until the ingredients are combined. Turn on your grill. Melt a knob of butter in the non stick pan or skillet over a medium heat. Pour the eggs and leek mixture into the pan and turn the heat to low. Crumble and scatter about 100g of goats cheese over the top. When the eggs have set and only the surface of the frittata is runny put the frying pan/skillet under the grill for a minute or two (keep an eagle eye on it) until the surface is golden and slightly puffed up and proud and the cheese has melted into little white pools.

Serve with a leaf salad (Romane lettuce and deep red raddichio) dressed with coarse salt, extra virgin olive oil, We also had warm pizza bianca.

So there you have it a week of leeks. There have been lemons too but more about that another day.

I hope you are all well and spring has sprung for you too, Have a good weekend.


Filed under Eggs, food, Rachel's Diary, recipes, salads, Uncategorized, vegetables

44 responses to “A phase

  1. This all looks very good and I just might have to try them all. Your mom seems very cool. You painted a wonderfully fun image of her. I giggled when I read “cooked on the hob”. I’m assuming “the hob” is what I know as “the burner” on a stove. The hob…ha…I like that. Looking forward to your lemon adventures. Perhaps you finally got to that neglected tree. I’m a big lemon fan.

    • rachel

      Yes hob is the burner – that is probably a bit confusing, better ammend. Yes I got to the tree, we’ve had and have
      lots and lots of lemon…lots. So do our friends. It has been lovely but a bit stressful and has taught me to
      be careful what you wish for !.

  2. I never really appreciated the leek until I moved here…I love to use it instead of onions (which I also love), and I really really love leeks with gorgonzola – on pizza, on pasta – I have a recipe I posted a while ago about this 🙂 Frittata, yes!

    • rachel

      Yes on pizza is delcious and I like the idea of the gorgonazola with leeks and pasta I will try that for sure.

  3. Who knew that leeks could be so interesting? Lovely photos as usual.

  4. I love the way you have described the leek so beautifully and taken it centre stage – the leeks on toast sound absolutely delicious, well actually it all does! Our leeks got rust last year – which I was very sad about. Now I have more recipes for next winter – lovely!

    • rachel

      Oh yes, the dreaded leek rust, my mum talked about that. You have a vegetable garden too
      the list gets better and better. I want to come and visit !

  5. leeks and lemons sound like a fine, fine way to welcome spring to me. i love the thought of a mom dashing into the garden after a drink to dig up some leeks. fantastic.

    • rachel

      I should really find a recipe with leeks and lemons ! My Mum is forever running into the garden to pull
      things up, or in some garden antics it is endlessly amusing.

  6. YUM. All your leek meals sound so good. I’m especially keen to try the leek on toast. I also like leek with potato- I make a soup with only leek, butter, potato slices with skin on, and water. No blending. Really good. And yes, we’ve got tulips, daffs, magnolias, flowering plum trees etc…all over portland. Reminds me I must take some photos! 🙂

    • rachel

      That soup sounds sounds like my sort of thing. Yes the leeks on toast is really good, really nice bread toasted well, leeks cooked in lots of butter, I think some bacon or goats cheese would be good to… The spring flowers, especailly the magnolia
      sound glorious.

  7. I have to say, until now my only forays into frittatas have been pan seared eggs that were dry and rubbery (probably thanks to some bum advice form an old college roommate who insisted on pouring the egg mixture into a sizzling pan), but you’ve made it look so wonderful with the leeks and goat’s cheese that we’ll have to try one sometime soon.

  8. beautiful. nice combinations. i love the lighting in the last photo- dark and gorgeous.

    • rachel

      Vincenzo said it was a gloomy photo so I feel better now.
      I forgot to mention leeks cooked in butter smeared on pizza bianca from passi – can you imagine!!

  9. Olive

    I make a wonderful goat cheese and leek galette for my vegetarian friends. I found the recipe on the Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy’s website.

  10. I also like leeks cooked very slowly, with a spoonful of grainy mustard and sometimes creme fraiche stirred in at the end. Perfect alongside roast chicken.

  11. I love the photos. And the chair by the table makes me think I’m sitting right there at your kitchen table.

  12. synchronicity! likely the time your mum was out digging leeks, my friend and I were doing same—her leek crop did remarkably well over the harsh winter,too. I cooked them in a borlotti bean dish–with lemon. so delicious.

    much leek love in our household.

  13. jennifer

    I love this post. I am a silent reader. You should think about a cookbook, every single recipe I have tried from your blog has been fabulous. You really take normal ingredients to a new level. Now I will go and hoake about in the bottom of the fridge and make the poor little leek that normally get chucked into babies soup as an after thought the centre stage of our table tomorrow. thank you.

    • rachel

      Thank you jennifer (my Mum the leek grower is jenifer too, with one ‘n’ though !) What a lovely comment. I am so glad you enjoy reading, that you like the recipes and that they work. This comment has made my morning.

  14. Sharmila

    This is just such a lovely recipe that absolutely requires trying out for a leek lover like me. Lovely photos!

  15. I enjoyed reading about your current preoccupation, and am in love with the beautiful, natural lighting captured in the photos.

  16. lo

    Those lovely leeks.
    That lovely meal. And the lovely photos. All too perfect. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I do this as well, becoming fixated on a certain ingredient, using it endlessly until I think I must never have it in my sight again, only to pick it up at the market again a few weeks later. My husband is still planting a spring garden and all these leek ideas have made me add them to the growing list. Each of these dishes sound so good to me and I will work on trying to recreate them, hopefully when I have some leeks that resemble the beauties pictured here!

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  19. Leeks sound like a lovely thing to obsess on.

  20. Yum how delicious! Leeks have always impressed me with their ability to transform when cooked from husky stalks to something soft and scrummy.

  21. Your frittata looks great but I must say your mom’s salad must be re-created in my kitchen a.s.a.p.! To the market for me….

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  23. TRaveler

    Out of all I like the leek soup the best. It is my favourite recipe.

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  25. I love leeks. Whenever a recipe calls for onion, I substitute it for leeks. You might get a chuckle out of this, but I was introduced to leeks by Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco. He’s a first century Roman detective whose father was a market gardener. Falco knows his vegetables.

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