A celebration of an awesome allium, plus some top festive foodie finds from Elisha Young, aka @elisha.eats on Instagram
It’s almost impossible to recommend new foods over the festive period, because everyone already has long-established favourites. But December isn’t just week after week of Christmas dinners with all the trimmings. There are still days – wet, gloomy and dull – when you’re chowing down on a dry ham sandwich and can only dream about glazed turkey, rich gravy and golden roast potatoes. Sure, this might be the month of eating more Quality Street than is strictly healthy, but indulging our cravings provides comfort during the cold weather.
The best ingredient for this time of year is something that’s easy to cook, has plenty of vitamins, is versatile, yet still tastes delicious and satisfying. Does such a thing exist? Well, as a candidate for the perfect winter vegetable, I would like to nominate the humble leek.
Milder and sweeter than onions, leeks are just as useful, and potentially tastier. The most obvious application is leek and potato soup – but that’s far from the only option. As part of the allium family, leeks go with anything creamy, like a cheesy sauce or risotto – and their slightly buttery flavour is enhanced when pan-fried in, well, butter. Leeks also make an excellent addition to a bubble and squeak cobbled together from leftovers.
Milder and sweeter than onions, leeks are just as useful, and potentially tastier
These versatile vegetables are in season from around October to April, which pretty much aligns with British weather at its worst. This means they’re frequently added to pasta bakes, pies and potato dishes – heavy on the carbs and cheese. The problem is that this can mask their delicate flavour. So, take a page out of Provenance Kitchen’s book and enjoy them well-seasoned and slightly charred. Here, the team serves coal-roasted leeks alongside venison, wild mushrooms and hazelnuts, or as part of their legendary Sunday roasts. Not feeling up to building a fire from scratch to cook your vegetables over? Rustle up a leek-tastic winter dish with an approach known as ‘raid the fridge and hope for the best’. Thinly slice two big leeks, then sauté in salted butter until slightly softened. While that’s cooking, mix three-quarters of a tub of cream cheese with plenty of dried oregano and parsley, and spread over a sheet of pre-made puff pastry, leaving about an inch of border. Once the leeks are ready, season with a generous amount of black pepper and layer thinly over the cream cheese. Top with the cheese and bacon of your choice, cut into small pieces, and bake at 200°C for around 20 minutes, until the leeks and bacon are crisped – consume immediately and with enthusiasm.
This only takes half an hour to make, yet looks impressive, tastes satisfying – and is vaguely healthy, too. The festive season is undeniably a time to treat yourself, but who said vegetables can’t be indulgent too?
Got a taste for festive flavours? Check out these Christmas recipes from KOTA’s head chef Charlie Crick Collins.
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