March 17: Leeks

Sophie Conran Pick's Leeks

The unassuming leek is an unlikely candidate for stardom and yet has a myriad of accolades including the nickname ‘king of the soup onions” it is the national emblem of Wales and was picked out in diamonds on the queens coronation crown, The Roman Emperor Nero had it as his favourite vegetable and credited it with improving his voice. It has been on menus for at least four millennia and was enjoyed by the Egyptians and the Anglo Saxons who gave it its name. When you consider how tasty and versatile it is it’s not actually that surprising, it can play the leading role as in leeks and cream or leeks vinaigrette, a beautiful spring dish of tiny young leeks, boiled and dressed in a with vinaigrette and topped with crisp pancetta or chopped boiled egg and parsley, which not only looks but tastes divine. It is also happy playing all sorts of backstage and support roles as in stock, where it is indispensable, soups, stews, pies and risotto and plays particularly well along side bacon, cream, chicken and tarragon and I would not be with out it. As it’s rather a glorious finale it is easy to grow and if you forget about it, it produces a white starburst of a flower as its a member of the allium family.

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