The daffodil I can understand, but the leek… Who would want a pungent smelling vegetable as a national symbol?
So the story goes, St David ordered his soldiers to wear the leek in their helmets in an ancient battle against the Saxons; so it does have it’s place in history.
But, I’m not talking about wearing leeks. When I was younger, my father grew leeks in the garden, lots of leeks; so they featured on our table simply as a boring boiled vegetable. My mother was not an imaginative cook. Don’t get me wrong she cooked well, but plainly.
I hated leeks. I would turn up my nose, gag, threaten to throw up at the table if they appeared on my plate until the beastly things were removed.
I grew up, and now quite enjoy leeks, even raw in a salad.
But I suspect leeks have gone the way of many of the foods and vegetables of yesteryear. People don’t bother much with them any more.
Even as a chef, I found it difficult to imagine leeks in any other form other than boiled.
But, here are some ideas that make the leek interesting.
The 10 best leek recipes for Saint David’s Day
The most versatile member of the onion family, the humble leek can be both a sturdy base or the star of the show, with a robust flavour and great texture
Leek, taleggio and thyme pie
The creamy taleggio and leeks cook down together to form a delicious, gooey filling, and the parsley adds a fresh note.
- 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
- 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
- A knob of butter
- Salt and black pepper
- 20ml double cream
- 180g taleggio or similar cheese, cut into chunks
- 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
- 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
- 1 egg, for washing
1 Heat an oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.
2 Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3 In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, taleggio and thyme leaves and season well. Cut the pastry in two and roll out each piece into a 3mm-thick circle. Place one circle on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.
4 Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven. Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.
Yes, check the Guardian link, there are many more interesting recipes.
You can pickle leeks as well:
- 1 Lb whole fresh leeks (greens included), washed thoroughly and chopped
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 C. rice wine vinegar
- 1 C. water
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Briefly blanch the leeks in salted water. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine all ingredient except the leeks in the saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the leeks to the brine mixture in the pan. Let cool to room temperature and then transfer to a smaller nonreactive container, cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator overnight. You could also can the pickled leeks if desired.
Source: Live in Art
More pickling on: I’ve sprung a leek… a pickled leek
English wine: Is sparkling wine better in England than France?
The Duchess of Cornwall has called for a new name for English sparkling wine to match the grandeur of champagne. And for the first time, domestic wine is the most popular in the government’s cellar. Have Britons developed a taste for a home-grown tipple?
Someone arrives with a bottle of English wine. Cue excitable voices saying, “Gosh, English wine is really quite good, you know – it gives champagne a run for its money.”
The surprise used to be palpable.
But English wine has grown up. Today it regularly wins awards – there were four gold medals at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) this year.
It’s a far cry from English actor Peter Ustinov’s put down: “I imagine hell like this – Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.”
But is there something holding English wine back? It accounts for just 0.25% of total wine sales in the UK, according to industry body English Wine Producers.
This week the Duchess of Cornwall called on producers to come up with a name.
“People should put their heads together and think of a new name for English sparkling wine,” she said while visiting Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire. “It should be something with much more depth. I plan to find a new word for it.”
So is new terminology the final piece in the jigsaw?
English wine has been through a revolution. Old grape varieties are out, new owners are in. The area of vines planted in England and Wales has doubled from 761 hectares in 2004 to about 1,500 hectares today. The country now has 434 vineyards.
Figures just released by the Foreign Office on the government’s wine cellar, show that for the first time more English wine was drunk at government hospitality events than wine from any other nation.
Andrew Neather, Evening Standard wine critic, says the new winemakers tend to be go-ahead types from the City or wealthy lawyers, who want to carve out another career.
They are focusing on sparkling wine, planting more of the traditional champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. In 2010, for the first time more than half of the vintage went into sparkling wine.
Three of this year’s four IWC gold medal winners were sparkling wines. In June, Majestic announced that sales of English sparkling wine trebled in 2012, encouraged by the Jubilee and Olympics.
There is logic to England focusing on fizz. Kent and West Sussex, where the best English sparkling wine originates, are only about 90 miles north of Champagne. The chalky soils around the North and South Downs are very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes.
The best English sparking wine is as good as “decent” champagne, Neather says. England’s top seller – Nyetimber – has more to offer than a mass market champagne like Moet Imperial, he argues.
“It’s more interesting, has more complexity and better acidity.” The Moet costs more at £32.99 – although it is sometimes discounted – while Nyetimber is £29.99.
The Financial Times wine critic, Jancis Robinson agrees, albeit with a couple of caveats.
“Most English fizz is now very well made and attractively dry and zesty. But very little has any real complexity since producers generally cannot afford to age it very long.” And cost is a problem. “It’s never a bargain,” Robinson says.
“It is generally made by people who have invested a great deal in new vineyards or winemaking and need to see a return.”
The competition can be significantly cheaper whether prosecco, cava or own-brand champagne. Aldi, for example, sells champagne for just £12.99.
Despite the cost premium, patriotism and the fashion for local provenance suggests that current levels of production are outstripped by demand.
“The industry sells everything it produces,” says Julia Trustram Eve, spokeswoman for English Wine Producers. “Demand is exceeding supply.”
If the English are planning to supplant the Champagne name, they’re going to have to come up with something more dramatic than Nyetimber or Dorking.
Just imagine that rolling off your tongue, “Here, have a Dorking!” or “I’ve brought the Dorks, darling!” when you compare it with the much more regal sounding, “Here have a Champagne!” or “I’ve brought the Champers, darling!”
I put it to you, is there an English county name that equals the magic of Champagne? I think not. Pity, because without that magic ring, Champagne will always be king.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
You’re not allowed to cook faggots, it’s sexual discrimination.
The days of burning witches, heretics and politicians at the stake are gone, although it’s a pity about the politicians…
Faggots are like meatballs made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes bread crumbs. The meat is shaped in the hand into balls, wrapped with caul fat , and baked.
Traditional fare from Wales and the English Midlands.
Faggots can be made from a variety of meats.
Not limited to pork and venison (above), but also black pudding…
BLACK PUDDING FAGGOTS AND STOUT GRAVY
A traditional faggot is wrapped in caul fat to hold it together. Increasingly difficult to get hold of, this thin membrane of fat is replaced here by an outer casing of bacon.
pork belly 125g
lamb’s liver 250g
black pudding 100g
garlic cloves 2
fresh white breadcrumbs 50g
streaky bacon 12 rashers
stout, or other dark beer 500ml
Set the oven at 180C. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the pork belly up a little and drop it into the bowl of a food processor, then blitz with the onion and lamb’s liver till coarsely chopped. Add the black pudding and blitz very briefly, then tip into a large mixing bowl. Crush the garlic and add it to the meat, together with a generous grinding of salt and white pepper. Mix in the breadcrumbs.
Divide the mixture into six equal amounts. Place them on a work surface and roll loosely into balls. Wrap each with two rashers of bacon, overlapping, around the outside of the meat, leaving the top of each open, then secure each with a couple of cocktail sticks. Transfer carefully to a roasting tin or baking dish.
Pour the stout into the roasting tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, till the tops are lightly crusted. Check the seasoning of the liquor in the pan before serving.
A Welsh businessman claims to have found the original recipe for Jack Daniel’s whiskey in a book of herbal remedies.
Mark Evans said he discovered the lost recipe while he was researching his family history. The book was written in 1853 by his great-great grandmother, whose surname was Daniels and who was also a local herbalist in Llanelli in south Wales.
He now believes that the recipe was taken to Lynchburg, Tennessee, in the US, by her brother-in-law – John “Jack the lad” Daniels – where Jack Daniel’s whiskey is distilled.
Jack Daniel’s is one of the best-selling whiskeys in the world and its founder was from Wales. Evans said the recipe also matches ingredients found on the bottle.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered the original recipe in great-great grannie’s book. I was doing some family research, looking at photographs and things, and I wanted to look at the family bible. At the bottom of the bookcase was this book,” he told the Llanelli Star.
He added: “My great, great-grandmother wrote in the book in 1853, and Jack Daniel’s is dated 1866, so it predates it. There is a link, because my grandmother’s grandfather’s brother – my great, great uncle – left for America and nobody ever heard from him after a couple of letters. That was during the time that Jack Daniel’s was set up, but more important than that, he was called John ‘Jack the Lad’ Daniel’s. We know he went to Lynchburg Tennessee and I’m pretty sure he used great-great grannie’s recipe to start off the whiskey business.”
Source: The Guardian Read more