Dec 29, 2017
by Kellen Watson, Daily Acts
Leeks are the upper class relative in the onion family. Onions are considered to be more harsh, or even low-brow. Leeks have a more upscale appeal. The flavor is thought to be more subtle and sweet than the average onion.
Although scientists are by no means certain, it is believed that leeks, like many herbs, are native to the Mediterranean area and possibly Asia Minor. Even though leeks have only recently become popular in the United States, they have been grown and used for cooking for more than 3,000 years in Asia and Europe.
Even the Bible mentions leeks. In Numbers (11:5) we read, "Remember how in Egypt we had fish tor the asking, cucumbers, and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic." This was from a lament by the Israelites as they wandered in the desert searching for the Promised Land. Later leeks would be traditionally consumed on Rosh Hashanah. It was meant to symbolize the desire for the people to have their enemies "cut off". This came from the idea that the Hebrew word for leek is karti, which is similar to the verb, to cut off, or yikartu.
It is widely reported that the Emperor, Nero (37-68 AD), ate leeks in quantity, cooked in oil. He believed it would improve his singing voice. He was so well known for eating leeks that he acquired the nickname, Porophagus (leek eater). Although this has been tough to verify we can assume that it might be true due to since leeks are not only high fibre but also heart protecting substances such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which help to prevent our blood vessels from damage, and folate, a B vitamin which also supports our cardiovascular system.
Leeks may have been introduced to Wales via Phoenician traders. The subsequent popularity of leeks in that country is exhibited by the fact that in 620 AD (or perhaps 640), King Cadwallader and his men wore leeks in their hats to differentiate themselves from their enemies, the Saxons. Wearing leeks in their hats worked as a good luck charm for the men. Thus becoming a good luck charm to the country. The onion-like vegetable was associated with Saint David and it was said that any maiden who slept with a leek under her pillow on his feast day (March 1st) would see her future husband in her dreams. The leek has become a national symbol of Wales.
Leeks were first brought to the United States, Canada, and Australia by the early settlers of those respective nations. The French call the leek, poireau, which also means "simpleton". In Europe, leeks are thought of as a kind of "poor man's asparagus". Agatha Christie named one of her most famous characters, the French detective, Poirot, after the leek. Today leeks are not as popular in Europe as they were in ancient times, largely because other similar vegetables such as onions are more convenient to use.
Locally we find leeks at the farmers' market regularly. They should be washed thoroughly to ensure there are no soil particles left behind from harvesting. I find they are great for flavoring soups and stir fry or left uncooked and tossed into salad.
2 Duck eggs
4 Small leeks, trimmed and cut in half lengthways and rinsed thoroughly
1 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp of unsalted butter
4 tbsp Fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp English mustard powder
1 tbsp honey
1 Lemon - Juice
2oz of Sunflower oil
1 tbsp Roughly chopped tarragon
Bring a small pan of water to the boil and put in the duck's eggs. Boil for around 10-12 minutes. When cooked, remove the eggs and cool under cold running water, to prevent a black ring from appearing around the yolk, and set aside Bring another saucepan of water to the boil and place the trimmed and rinsed leeks in the water, then boil for 4-5 minutes until the leeks are tender. Once cooked, remove from the water and, once cool enough to handle, slice in half again lengthways. Place a griddle pan over a high heat. While it is heating up, put the leeks on a plate and drizzle with the olive oil. Then place the leeks on to the hot griddle pan, turning them over after 2 minutes, until they have grill marks on both sides. Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over a low heat and put in the butter. Once it has melted, add the breadcrumbs and toss them in the butter to coat all over. Once golden brown and toasted, remove from the pan and set aside. To make the dressing, put the mustard powder, honey, lemon juice, sunflower oil and tarragon into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Place some griddled leeks on each serving plate, drizzle the dressing over the leeks and sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumbs. Peel the duck's eggs and grate over the top of the breadcrumbs, then serve.
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