Sunday, 12 February 2012

New Leeks and Old Leeks: Two Recipes

Leeks with lemon and butter - half with a coating of cream cheese.
Recipe below

I’m running out of things to do with the leek. This is usually a problem confined to the carrot (a guaranteed muddy staple from Riverford), but this year the allium just keeps popping up, like an annoying but affectionate child, in my veg box.

So to use up the old leeks (almost two week old bendy things), the order of the day is a big vat of Nigel Slater’s leek and parmesan soup - once made, stored in the freezer and to be brought out on grey days like these. Sometimes I warm it up gently and drop in small cubes of double gloucester cheese that will melt in the residual heat so glorious yellowy-orange goo will grace each spoonful.

And yesterday, a new batch of leeks arrived - alert, erect and standing to attention. Little needs to be done with them - a quick fry will keep their sweetness and a slight crunch. A gorgeous lunch for one.

New leeks: with Butter and Lemon

So, after a cursory wash, and a rough chop of two leeks into thick rings, melt a slice of butter until foaming in a hot frying pan, and throw the leeks in. Coat the rings in butter, and leave to fry on high heat - only stirring occasionally - you want the leeks to catch and brown at the edges. When they’re just cooked (but still crunchy), squeeze lemon, season with salt and eat immediately. For a treat, spoon in cream cheese - it’s totally unnecessary but so delicious.

Old leeks: Nigel Slater’s velvety soup with Parmesan

Melt a slice of butter, and gently soften 3 leeks chopped into rings in a covered cast iron pan for 20 minutes. Add a peeled potato chopped into chunks, and cook for another five minutes. Add leftover Parmesan cheese rinds, and pour in 1.5 litres of veg stock. Season, then leave to bubble gently for under an hour, leave partially covered.

Take out the cheese rinds, (get as much Parmesan as you can from them), and blend until smooth. Add whatever grated cheese you would like in it, reheat and serve with crusty bread.

Adapted from Nigel Slater's the Kitchen Diaries

Previous leek risotto recipe here.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Redhead Risotto: Porcini, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke

Seventh floor, Tate Modern.

The Redhead and I are perched on seats that are too tall for us. We’re drinking to keep warm - a carafe of something that would have cost us five college dinners ten years ago. It’s lovely. It’s warming, this Trescone. Tourists shuffle behind us, huffing from the traipse up fourteen flights of stairs, only for their wondrous view of St Paul’s Cathedral to be marred by the heads of two women resolutely ignoring their protruding (or should I say intruding) fancy camera lenses.

Conversations with the Redhead are rarely linear. When we meet there’s not too much of the how are yous, what you been up tos. She could be reminiscing about nights lost queueing up to see the Manics, recent weddings (including her own) or explaining why she’s an evolved vegetarian - in fact, an evolved vegan - who now eats oysters (although she panicked when she scoffed them the night before her wedding. A ‘Bridesmaids’ scenario is to be avoided at all costs, I think). I will tell her with affection that I bought her a wedding wine - a super-Tuscan Cepparello (at Ruth Ford's suggestion) that matches her penchant for grilled aubergines.

Clearly there will be patchy holes of things we should know about each other that we don’t. Amidst twelve years of friendship, there’s bound to be something we’ve missed out on. But it’s a fright to learn that she’s been a fellow Riverford box subscriber for three years. THREE YEARS. She has hidden this crucial fact as slyly as she hid just how disgustingly clever she was at university.

And of course, this sets us off on a zillion directions - what the hell to do with a Jerusalem artichoke, how the Riverford man likes to hide her box in a bush - some sort of herbaceous joke neither of us quite get, how my Riverford scrubbing brush (free with the tenth box) changed my life, how she cheats by peeling muddy carrots.

Post-revelation, I promise that I’ll post some good Jerusalem artichoke recipes for her. Even as I type I’m preparing some for a happy marriage with a melting beef shin stew, so in love with the root am I.

So, this recipe, adapted from a Riverford one, is for the Redhead. A soothing risotto with a topping of slightly crunchy and tart Jerusalem artichokes - bowlfuls of comfort on a cold snowy day.

Redhead risotto

Handful dried porcini
Boiling water just enough to cover
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek finely sliced
1 small onion finely chopped
150g risotto rice
Big splash of dry vermouth or white wine
500ml hot stock - veg or chicken
Lots of grated parmesan

Olive oil
2 or 3 well scrubbed jerusalem artichokes. Thickly sliced.
2 lemon quarters

Soak the dried porcini in a small bowl with just enough boiling water to cover. Not too much.

Melt the butter over a medium-high heat in a large pan, add leeks and onions, and soften for a good 5 minutes or until they’re smelling lovely. Stir occasionally so they don’t catch.

Add the rice, give a stir or two for a minute to let the flavours get to know each other. Add the wine or vermouth, and let bubble until it’s all gone.

Add a slosh of the stock, let bubble away and stir every now and then. Keep adding a slosh of stock every time it has bubbled away until all the stock’s used up. This should take about half an hour. The rice should be al dente.

Meanwhile, parboil the jerusalem artichokes for about 8 minutes. Drain, and chop into 2cm cubes. Heat a frying pan with olive oil on a medium-high heat, and add the cubes. Stir to coat in the oil, then fry the cubes so that they brown - and only stir occasionally so that the sides have time to brown. This should take about 10 minutes for the artichokes to get a really meaty nutty flavour. Add a sprinkling of salt, and a squeeze of lemon before you take them off the heat.

When the rice is cooked, add the porcini in its liquid, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the parmesan, stir and serve, with the crunchy cubes of jerusalem artichoke on top.