Whilst we patiently wait for spring to arrive and a new season's crop, there are some delicious vegetables to make the most of in March.
Leeks stand strong and sturdy in the ground, braced against the frost and snow. They lend their mild, sweet flavour to casseroles, soups and other comforting dishes. If an onion seems too strong, a leek will generally do.
When preparing leeks, it’s important to ensure the soil is removed. Gritty leeks are unacceptable in the pot or on the plate. Thorough cleaning in lots of cold water is the only way. But first, remove the tough green tops and save for stock. Then slice part way down two sides of the leek and gently swill away any grit beneath the layers before chopping. Once chopped, wash well again under cold running water. If you want thinner slices, once shredded, leave to stand in a large bowl of water for five minutes to let debris settle, then rinse again; drain well before using.
Leeks marry well with potatoes in a soup; once caramelised they add subtle depth to a savoury custard tart; they lend themselves to be baked or gratinated with cheese; they really stand out in a simple dish of leeks poached in stock, served chilled with grated boiled egg and a vinaigrette.
Onions and their close allium relatives leeks, shallots, garlic and chives have been a staple of most cuisines around the world for thousands of years. During the Middle Ages, onions were such an important food to the Europeans that they were used as currency to pay for essentials such as rent and were even given as gifts. They are equally at home as the base of a soup or stew, as an element in a salad or omelette, or to be enjoyed in their own right, pickled or baked.
When it comes to preparing onions, we have five ways to stop the tears:
- Place a spoon in your mouth.
- Leave the onion to chill in the fridge, to slow the release of the sulphurous oil.
- Chew on a piece of bread.
- Wear swimming goggles.
- Leave the roots on until the very end.
Here is a link to our simple vegetable stock recipe that can be the basis for soup, broth, stew or risotto.