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Leeks


Leeks

Varieties

Leeks are related to garlic and onions but have a much subtler, sweeter and more sophisticated flavour. They can be used to enrich soups or stews and they partner brilliantly with potato and with cheese to form tasty side-dishes and suppers that comfort and satisfy throughout the winter.

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Storage

Store loosely wrapped in plastic [to keep them moist and to contain their smell] they will keep in the fridge for a week.

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Origins and Culture

Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.

The Romans are thought to have introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, where they were able to flourish because they could withstand cold weather. Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as this country's national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against that Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents.

Today the leek is also known as Allium porrum and is grown widely across northern Europe and Asia- from Ireland to China- and of course in North America, too. Leeks thrive in cooler climates and are tolerant of frost, making them a popular winter vegetable.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin C as well as iron and fibre. They provide many of the health-giving benefits associated with garlic and onions, such as promoting the functioning of the blood and the heart.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Preparing them is like working with green onions where you remove damaged outer leaves and trim off the rootlets at the base. You may also want to cut off the top half of the dark green tops. It is recommended that the leeks be partially cut lengthwise, starting at the middle and running the knife up the green tops. Make a second lengthwise cut perpendicular to the first, allowing you to fan out the leaves. Give them a good rinse to remove the dirt that gets trapped in them as they grow. If you are not cooking the leeks whole, then give them another wash after chopping them.
Undercooked leeks are tough and chewy, and overcooked leeks can take on an undesirable mushy texture. Cook until just tender, testing them by piercing the base of the leek with a knife. Braising in a moderate oven will take anything from 10 to 30 minutes depending on size.

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