INGREDIENT OF THE MONTH - Leek
One of the few vegetables to be mentioned in the Bible, leeks appear in The Book of Numbers as a food that the children of Israel miss after leaving Egypt. Emperor Nero was so keen on them that he earned the nickname ‘Porophagus’ meaning ‘Leek eater’. In 640AD, the Welsh wore them in their helmets in battle to distinguish them from the Saxons, hence the association.
Alongside onions and garlic, Leeks are a member of the Allium genus family. These are packed full of cancer blocking compounds, and are a good source of Manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid and iron. They’re great for heart health, boost circulation and can help lower blood pressure – there’s no better excuse to tuck in!
How to use
Try to choose small to medium sized leeks that are firm and straight, as larger ones can be a little tougher with a woody flavor. Bear in mind that they’ll need a lot of trimming before use when it comes to buying. Store in loose plastic bags to retain moisture – they’ll stay fresh in fridge for 3-5 days.
Cut off the roots, remove tough outer leaves and trim away two-thirds of the green tops. Fan out the layers and rinse thoroughly under a cold tap to get rid of any hidden dirt. Leeks are super-versatile, adding an onion-esque base to soups and stews and a lovely sweetness to light, creamy sauces. We love them paired with chicken and mushroom in an old school pie, or try charring them in a griddle pan for an extra smoky dimension.
WHAT'S GOOD AT THE MOMENT?
With the frost starting to bite, make the most of winter's most hardy ingredients.
Often considered a fruit because of its flamboyant colours, Rhubarb is actually a vegetable. It either be forced, resulting in yellow leaves, or field grown which produces a tougher, but more flavoursome version. Try stewing and serving with custard for the ultimate British pud, or roast it and serve with gamey meats such as duck. It’s also great when cooked down and pureed, then topped up with champagne or prosecco for a sharp rhubarb bellini.
Purple sprouting broccoli
The glamorous cousin of the familiar green variety, purple sprouting broccoli is leafier and stalkier than its tree-like counterpart, giving a far more interesting texture. They have a subtle freshness that’s sensational combined with anchovy, particularly in pasta. When cooking, treat it like asparagus – they share a lot of similar qualities, so don’t overdo it and pair with rich flavours like gruyere cheese or poached egg.