With St David’s celebrations just a few days away, Nicole Pilcher looks at ways to utilise the leek at dinnertime…
St. David’s Day, on the 1st of March, marks not only the first day of spring but the feast day of Saint David – a definite foodie date for the diary. The leek is steeped in Welsh tradition and myth; it was believed to have healing powers once upon a time, and it was also believed that girls who slept with a leek under their pillow on this special day, would see their future husbands in their dreams. Then there’s the famous, albeit slightly odd ceremonial tradition whereby a young Welsh Fusilier is required to eat an entire raw leek while a goat is paraded around him.
If these age-old customs don’t have you running for the veg aisle, then consider the leek’s health benefits. Packed full of the compound quercetin, leeks help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body while simultaneously increasing levels of the good stuff. They also contain less than 50 calories – great if you’re watching your weight after the winter splurge.
This year, the British Leek Growers Association has teamed up with BBC Good Food cookery writer Jane Hornby to devise recipes based on British leeks, that will feed a family of up to four for under a fiver. Saving you pennies and helping your waistline, there’s nothing not to love about a leek-based meal.
Why not try one of Jane’s new recipes below?
Leek, Chorizo & Goat’s Cheese Tortilla
Ready in 20 minutes
Cost £1.01 per serving
1 tbsp olive oil
80g sliced chorizo sausage, use the cooking type if you can
3 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced
500g leftover (new or old) cooked potatoes, thickly sliced
A few sprigs fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
6 large eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
100g goat’s cheese (or mozzarella or another melting cheese)
Heat oil in a medium non-stick frying pan, then add chorizo. Sizzle for 5 minutes until chorizo is starting to crisp and has released its red oil. Scoop the sausage onto a plate. Now stir the leeks into juices and soften for 5 minutes.
Stir in the chorizo, potatoes and most of the rosemary, then lower the heat and pour in the eggs. Cook gently for about 8 minutes, gently shaking the pan now and again, until the tortilla is set almost all the way through. Heat the grill to high while you wait.
Slice the cheese into rounds, spread over the tortilla and season with black pepper and a little more rosemary. Grill for 2 minutes or until the egg is set and golden, and the cheese is melty.
Hearty Leek & Lamb Cobbler
Ready in about 3 hours
Cost £1.21 per serving
450g cubed stewing lamb such as shoulder (or pork shoulder or braising beef)
2tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
150ml brown ale
4 medium leeks, trimmed then cut into thumb lengths
1 stick celery, sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
400g swede or turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
A few sprigs fresh thyme (or 1tsp dried)
1 or 2 bay leaves
500ml lamb or beef stock
For the cobbler topping
250g self-raising flour
80g cold cubed butter
125ml semi-skimmed milk
2tsp wholegrain mustard
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 egg, beaten
Heat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3. Toss the lamb with the seasoned flour. Heat oil then fry meat for 10 minutes, until dark golden brown all over. Transfer to a bowl.
Back to the hob: splash in the ale and bring to a boil, scraping up all of the tasty brown bits from the bottom. Tip this over the meat then wipe the pan with kitchen paper.
Heat a little more oil then gently fry the vegetables with the thyme and bay for 10-15 minutes until they start to turn golden here and there. Return the lamb and juices to the pan, top up with the stock, then season. Cover the casserole with a lid, leaving just a small gap to one side, then cook in the oven for 2½ hours.
With 40 minutes to go, make the topping. Add ½ tsp salt to the flour in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Combine the milk, mustard, thyme and half of the egg, then tip into the bowl and bring to a soft dough. Knead a few times on a floured surface till just smooth, then pat the dough to about 3cm thick and stamp into rounds. Squash together any trimmings and repeat. Don’t overwork the dough as it will make it tough.
Uncover the meat, stir gently and taste the sauce for seasoning at this point. Place the cobbler pieces on top, brush them with the remaining egg, then return to the oven until the topping is golden and lamb tender. Let the cobbler settle for 10 minutes before serving with your favourite seasonal greens.