In the winter kitchenHome » Latest issue » Good, issue 7 » In the winter kitchen
Leek and potato soup is a great winter warmer, but there’s much more you can do with this easy-to-grow veggie, says Alessandra Zecchini
Eating what you grow, especially in an economic downturn, is all very well, but onions just don’t like growing in my veggie garden in the Waitakere Ranges. I managed some pretty good garlic last year, my spring onions grew to a decent Italian size, but the ‘proper’ onion harvest was pathetic.
Leeks, by contrast, seem to grow well anywhere, even in wet clay. I use leeks instead of onions in many dishes. Delicate in flavour, leeks are perfect for soups, risottos and quiches, and can be used as a side vegetable.
Boiled leeks covered with cream, butter and cheese, then placed under the grill, are a popular French and North Italian dish.
Leeks are also used extensively in Japanese and other East Asian dishes, and—being sweeter than onions—pair well with soy sauce. Cut leeks into thick oblong slices and sauté; when the vegetable wilts, add a little soy sauce. Magic!
Pumpkin and Leek Soup
Serves 4 - 6
For a change from leek and potato soup, try pumpkin and leek instead.
- 200g pumpkin, peeled, seeds discarded
- 2 leeks
- 1 celery stalk, with leaves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 litre vegetable stock, heated
- 1 cup of fresh beans (optional)
- Black pepper
- Crusty bread to serve
Cut the pumpkin into 2–3cm cubes. Finely slice the leeks, using as much of the green part as possible, and rinse well under running water. Finely chop the celery.
In a large saucepan heat the two tablespoons of olive oil, add the vegetables, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cover with the hot stock and bring to the boil. If using the fresh beans, add them.
Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft, stirring from time to time. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.
- Adding beans makes this soup a nutritionally complete meal. If you don’t have fresh beans, add drained canned beans shortly before serving.
- For more protein, accompany with toasted bread topped with melted cheese.
- Small pasta (such as alphabet pasta or Italian orzo pasta) can be added for a more substantial soup.
This is a very simple yet fancy flan, ideal for entertaining and perfect with a glass of chardonnay.
For the pastry:
- 250g high-grade flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 125g unsalted butter, chilled
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
- 3 leeks
- 1 pinch salt for the water
- 125g ricotta
- 100ml cream
- 3 eggs
- 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub in with your fingertips. When the mixture is crumbly, add the egg and water and knead until it forms a soft dough.
Roll out the dough to fit a 23cm flan dish, greased with butter or lined with baking paper. Cover the pastry with baking paper, cover with baking weights or dried beans, and blind bake for 15 minutes at 180°C.
While you wait, slice the leeks finely, rinse well under running water, then blanch in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and shake off excess liquid. In a bowl mix the ricotta, cream, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
When the pastry is cooked, remove the baking weights or beans and fill the pastry shell with the leeks. Top with the ricotta mixture and return to the oven for 25 minutes, or until the filling is set.
Cool the flan for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Pasta with Leeks and Chickpeas
Serves 4 - 6
- 1 leek
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 100g cooked chickpeas
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 500g short pasta (penne, pasta bows, etc)
- 1 tbsp butter (optional)
Finely slice the leek, using as much of the green part as possible, and rinse well under running water.
In a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in olive oil. Before the garlic turns golden, add the sliced leeks. Lower the heat and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and salt to taste and cook for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water.
Drain pasta and place in the frying pan with the leeks, chickpeas and butter (optional). Stir well, then add chopped parsley and black pepper to taste. Stir once more and serve.
- Serve with grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.
- For more colour, cook a couple of chopped tomatoes with the leeks.
- You can also substitute chickpeas with cooked butter beans.