Cooking with leeks

Our kitchen garden cook reveals her favourite recipes with the versatile leek.

The world of alliums is opening up and, as well as our winter hardy leeks that are now ready to harvest, we have spring onions and chives, all of which add great flavour to dishes. With such an abundance of leeks, I’ll be using them in all sorts of dishes thanks to their versatility.

Saffron fish pie with duchess-potato topping (serves 4)

2lb of potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward
A knob of butter
A splash of milk
A splash of cream
5 egg yolks
A generous pinch of saffron
25g butter
25g flour
3 leeks
300ml full cream milk
50ml double cream
400g fish such as salmon, cod, smoked haddock, prawns, scallops and lobster
A handful of chopped parsley

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6. Peel and halve the potatoes, place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bring to the boil and then simmer until tender. When cooked, drain well and return to the pan. Add a splash of milk, a splash of cream, a knob of butter and all the egg yolks, then mash it well, preferably through a ricer, and season. Meanwhile, put the saffron into a cup with a few tablespoons of boiling water and set aside.

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In another pan, fry the sliced leeks in butter until soft and then add the flour and mix well. Cook for a minute or so and then gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil, stirring to avoid any lumps and sticking at the bottom of the pan and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Pour in the saffron and water. Remove from the heat and stir in the double cream, chopped parsley and seasoning.

Take a buttered pie dish. Arrange the uncooked fish in it and then pour the leek-and-parsley sauce over them. You can then either simply spoon the potato on top or, to create the full retro duchess version as I’ve used in the photograph, put the potatoes in a piping bag fitted with a rosette nozzle and pipe the mash in circles. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling at the edges. Serve with a salad or green beans.

Crab-and-leek pasties
Take a sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry and cut out four circles, then chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling. In a bowl, mix together 200g white crabmeat, a finely diced red chilli, a handful of freshly chopped parsley, a finely sliced leek that’s been gently fried in olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of mascarpone. Spoon the filling into the centre of the circles of pastry and brush the edges with beaten egg before folding in half and brushing with egg. Cook the pasties in a moderately hot oven for 20–25 minutes.

Cock-a-leekie soup
Take a whole chicken and place it in a pot with a bouquet garni and a diced carrot, onion, leek and 2 sticks of celery. Add enough water to just cover the chicken, simmer for an hour then remove the chicken and strain the stock into a clean pot. Add a cup of barley and simmer gently until tender. Take the chicken off the bone and add this to the pot with a couple of thickly sliced and gently fried leeks and a handful of freshly chopped parsley.