Roasted Leeks

Cost: £1 or so. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Ten years ago when I was in the Sixth Form, I remember looking in the common room fridge and being terribly impressed by our collective healthiness. It was filled with fruit, individually packaged salads, and low-fat yoghurt. I felt a few calories lighter from even looking inside. This lasted until I glanced at the bin, which contained only chocolate bar wrappers, crisp packets and fizzy drink cans.

Generally, I find it relatively easy to make good food choices in the supermarket. My husband is especially good at saying “no” to processed foods when standing in front of the chocolate aisle. I buy from the “bowl shops” at least twice a week – the temporary stands that sell fruit and vegetables in £1 bowls, the choice and quantities varying slightly according to whatever happens to be available at this time of year. It’s pretty good, because it sort-of encourages seasonal eating, and there are no non-fruit-or-vegetable items to provide temptation.

However, come the weekend, and the pantry/fridge is still full of vegetables, getting slightly past their best – and it’s a situation that does not tend to resolve itself with extended avoidance (my go-to method for problem solving). This happened the other day with some leeks which had been bought when they were squeaky-fresh, bursting with vitamins and flavour, and were languishing reproachfully on the vegetable shelf *cough* two *cough* weeks later.

Roasting is a great way of bringing out the flavour left in slightly tired vegetables. With leeks, they can easily dry out though, so they need a quick boil first before a blast in the oven to add a tinge of char and caramel, flavours brought out with olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar and garlic.

Recipe: Roasted leeks

from Jamie Oliver

3 leeks, washed with any dried bits removed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar

1. Rinse the leeks well, peeling back the outer layers slightly where the dirt gathers. Slice them on a sharp diagonal into 1-inch pieces

2. Blanch them in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain well. Immediately cover the leeks with cold water (iced, if possible) to arrest the cooking process

3. Preheat the oven to 200C, and whilst the oven is heated up, drain the leeks. When they are dry, toss them with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped garlic.

4. Roast the leeks for 10 minutes until burnished and caramelised. Watch closely to ensure they do not burn.

We enjoyed this as a side dish for Sunday lunch, served alongside slow roast lamb and other vegetables – it’s a convenient one to cook, because you can boil and season the leeks in advance, and then just pop them into the still-hot oven  when the meat has finished cooking and been taken out to rest,


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