Like garlic and onion, leeks are a member of the allium family, but have their own distinct flavour - quite harsh when raw (only very young leeks are eaten this way) but, when cooked, very delicate, like a mild onion but with a hint of sweetness. Two thirds of their length is white and firm, and this is the part that is mainly eaten. The rest of the third is made up of the leaves (flags), most of which is discarded.
Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish. Two of the world's most famous soups, Scotland's cock-a-leekie and France's crème vichyssoise, are based around them.
Choose the best
Look for leeks with a firm, unblemished white lower part, and leaves that are bright green, with a crisp texture. Smaller leeks tend to be sweeter and more tender.
Thorough washing is very important for leeks, as soil is often trapped between the many layers of leaves. First, trim off the base, and cut away the uppermost part of the leaves. If it's tough, remove the outer layer or while. Then, if you want to keep the leek whole, use a knife to make a slit from the top to the point where the green meets the white, cutting through the centre. Rinse well under running water, pulling back the layers so that any dirt at the base is removed. Alternatively, slice the leeks, then put in a colander and wash well under running water.
In the fridge, for up to a week. As their strong aroma can taint other foods, make sure they are well wrapped.
Steam (up to 8 minutes for sliced; up to 16 minutes for whole). Pan fry (up to 8 minutes, sliced). Also good as an ingredient in casseroles, tarts, pies and soups.
Leeks can be pan-fried, baked or braised and served as an accompanying vegetable. They can also be included in a wide variety of dishes including casseroles, soups, stuffing's, omelettes, vegetable bakes, risottos, pies and quiches and pasta sauces.
A member of the onion family, the leek is a versatile spring vegetable that, chopped and combined with carrot, celery and onion, makes a great base for soups or stews. Its mild, sweet flavour also partners well with butter and cream in sauces, souffl©s and gratins.
Recipes using leek
By Allegra McEvedy
By The Bellamore Family
By Michel Roux Jr.
By Daniel Galmiche
By Fernando Stovell
Light meals and snacks
Starters and nibbles
By James Martin
By Ross Burden
By Tom Kitchin
By Bryn Williams
By Stephane Reynaud
By Yotam Ottolenghi
Leeks should have dark-green leaves and fresh-looking roots. Choose firm bulbs with even-coloured skins.
Only the white part of leeks is cooked: trim away the tough, woody stalk end and use the green leaves to wrap the contents of a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs added to soups, stews and stocks to add flavour and removed before serving). Clean leeks thoroughly before cooking by separating the leaves and rinsing them under cold running water.
Make leeks the star of the show by whizzing up the traditional chilled soup, Vichyssoise. Alternatively, top hot leek and potato soup with deep-fried oysters for a dramatic finish. Baby leeks make a pretty side dish steamed or griddled whole.
Get Fresh and Fruity Leeks *, Fresh Vegetables and Class 1 - Great Britain
Leeks * from Get Fresh and Fruity Online