As a member of the allium family (along with garlic, chives, scallions, shallots, and onions), leeks are an incredibly versatile vegetable that add a sweet and mild onion flavour to any recipe — be it soups, stews, casseroles, pastas, or as a grilled and roasted side dish. Whatever suits your fancy, there’s bound to be a recipe that utilizes this versatile veggie.
Depending on how you cook leeks, the preparation of them will vary. Gentle and slow cooking of the leeks will extract the sweet flavours and make them tender. One thing to note is that they’re often dirty on the inside — make sure you clean them thoroughly before using them, no matter how you prepare them!
Depending on your ingenuity, every part of the leek can be eaten. If you don’t have time to prepare and use the leaves and roots right away, save them in a container in your freezer and use them later.
Now that you know the basics of preparing leeks, lets get to the fun part — using them in recipes!
Leeks are delicious when used as a component in larger recipes, but they also serve as a great side dish. Depending on your flavour preferences you can add a variety of spices and herbs, but here’s a standard recipe you can experiment with:
- 2 large leeks — slice in half lengthways and cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Wash the leeks and slice them in half lengthways, discarding the roots and any brown sections — if desired, the roots can be used to make noodles or zested and added to a salad. Chop up each half into bite-sized pieces
- Put the leeks in a large bowl and add cold water. Swish the bowl around to remove any residual dirt and grit. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes, and then lift them out of the water and allow any excess to drip off.
- In a large frying pan or skillet, melt 1tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add the leeks to the pan, sprinkle with salt, and stir to combine
- Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or until the leeks are very tender
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir the leeks until the butter is melted.
- Serve hot or cold, or freeze until use at a later time.
Soup is the ultimate comfort food in cold weather, and this one is very satisfying. It’s versatile too – play away!
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks — cleaned and thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic — minced
- 1 russet potato — peeled and chopped
- 1 large head of cauliflower — cut into florets
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
- 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- Chopped chives (optional)
- Crumbled bacon (optional)
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until they’re golden, usually between 4-6 minutes. Add garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant
- Add the potato and cauliflower to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer covered until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, usually after 20 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until its smooth. Alternatively, wait until the soup has cooled slightly and pour it into a blender. If using the latter method, gradually add the mixture to a blender to avoid overwhelming the blender with the whole pot all at once.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Add chives and bacon if desired.
There’s something about the combination of leeks and potatoes isn’t there? Soup isn’t the only option (although it’s a good one). These scalloped potatoes with leeks just might make it into your regular rotation.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup leeks — finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic — grated or minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 lbs yellow or golden potatoes — peeled and sliced thinly
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with butter to prevent the potatoes sticking to the pan
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter to the saucepan, and once the butter has melted add leeks. Stir the saucepan for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes, add garlic and thyme and continue to stir for 30 seconds
- Stir in milk, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Bring the saucepan to a boil, and once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir the saucepan occasionally until the mixture has thickened, usually after 5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes to the saucepan to coat them in the mixture. Once coated, transfer the potatoes to the 8×8 dish and spread them evenly.
- Cook the potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the potatoes are lightly brown and bubbly. Let cool before serving.
We couldn’t have a blog post about leeks without including this classic!
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 large leeks, white and light-green parts only (no leaves), roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic — minced
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold (or similar) potatoes — peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1tsp salt
- 1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Chives (optional) —finely chopped
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic. Stir regularly until the leeks are soft and the garlic is fragrant, and adjust the heat as needed to ensure they don’t brown
- Add potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper to the pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to bring it to a simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft
- Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaves, and puree the soup using an immersion blender or a standard blender. If using a standard blender, blend it in small batches to avoid overwhelming the machine, and leave the hole in the top off to allow steam to escape
- Once blended, transfer the soup to a clean pot. Add the heavy cream. Add salt and pepper according to taste preferences. If the soup is too thin, simmer it until it gains a thicker consistency; if it’s too thick, add water or broth.
- Made too much and can’t finish it in one sitting? no worries — the soup can be frozen (without the cream) for up to 3 months. To reheat, simply defrost it in the fridge for 12 hours and reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat and add the cream once hot.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t given much consideration to using leek roots in recipes. Out of curiosity I googled recipes that can utilize the roots, and using them as a noodle substitute enticed me. To put this alluring-allium recipe to the test, I recruited one of my colleagues to use the roots in a stir fry.
- Roots from 4-5 leeks
- 2 carrots — chopped into matchsticks
- 2 outer leaves of cabbage — chopped into fine slices
- 1 large broccoli — cut into florets
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 fresh chili
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 red or orange bell pepper — diced
- 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ginger (optional) — grated
- A pinch of salt
- Cut off the roots at the base of the leek. Place them in a bowl and add cold water. Swish them around in the bowl and wash them thoroughly to remove excess dirt and grit.
- Place the olive oil, chopped up chili, sugar, grated ginger, soy sauce, and leek roots in a wok or skillet over low heat and stir regularly. Add the carrots and broccoli and cook allow it to cook for a few minutes, and then add the cabbage and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat and stir regularly. If desired, you can add sources of protein (chicken, tofu, beef, etc.), or simply have it as a vegetable side dish. Add any spices or sauce that you like (i.e., I’m a fan of teriyaki) in the last few minutes of cooking. Once done, serve it on a bed of rice or noodles, or leave it as a vegetable side dish.