How to cook leeks

How to cook leeks

Serve up leeks today and you'll be in the company of those who built the pyramids, Roman Emperor Nero and, of course, the Welsh Army at the time of St David. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates even prescribed them as an antidote to nosebleeds! 

I've never eaten a leek to stop a nosebleed but I do agree with Nero that they are one of my favourite vegetables. 

How do you like to eat your leeks? They are an inevitable inclusion in any vegetable box or bag scheme that you might happen to sign up to at this time of year but it's all too easy to let them shrivel up in the fridge or use them as a base for a soup. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter but there's a lot more you can do with them.

Leeks are more versatile than you might think. They're a member of the allium family of vegetables (along with onions, garlic, chives and shallots) and can be used in most recipes that call for onions as a base.

Leeks are particularly good:

  • in stir fries
  • in soups
  • as a base for vegetable stock
  • with potatoes
  • in a frittata or omelette
  • with cheese 
  • roasted
  • raw in a salad
  • in Turkish cuisine.

How to cook leeks

While I have definitely had boiled or steamed leeks served to me at some point in the past, which were perfectly edible, this is by no means my favourite way of cooking them. Leeks sautéed in olive oil or butter on the other hand are exquisite. Here's how to sauté leeks:

1.  Trim the ends of leeks, discarding any thick, dark green leaves. Rinse well under running water  as leeks have a tendency to have mud hidden between their leaves.
2. Slice into rounds and rinse again in a colander if you can see any mud.
3. Heat 1-2 tbsp butter or olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
4. Add the leeks and stir well, cooking for around 10 minutes until softened. You can cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low to speed the process up a bit.

Talking about leeks with your kids

We've started talking about food a lot more with our kids recently. You don't have to be an expert though - just explaining what the ingredients are and where they come from is a good way to start. If you do want to take it further however, here are a few fun facts about leeks for you to share at the dinner table.

  • Leeks have been farmed since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and were probably eaten by the people who built the pyramids.
  • Hippocrates - an Ancient Greek physician - prescribed leeks as a cure for nosebleeds.
  • According to legend the Welsh army wore leeks in their hats during a battle with the Saxons in 640AD - leeks are still the Welsh national emblem!
  • Roman Emperor Nero was known as Porophagus - leek eater - because he ate so many of them. He believed that they'd help him sing better.
    Source British Leeks.

Are leeks good for you?

Leeks are a good source of vitamin A (which helps with vision and the immune system), vitamin K and manganese. They also contain vitamin B6 and the flavonoid kaempferol.
Source: The Guardian.

Leek recipes

Leek, butterbean and roasted cauliflower freekah salad with sumac
Cheesy leeks on toast
Hearty root vegetable soup
Leek, butterbean and Wensleydale cheese savoury crumble
And here are 10 vegan leek recipes that I put together for metro.co.uk

How to cook leeks with information about their history and nutritional value