Leeks, a national emblem of Wales, belong to the onion family but have a milder flavour. They are easy to grow, most pests give them a wide berth, and they are a great ingredient for winter dishes.
Keep your leeks in the fridge for up to a week, but make sure they are wrapped up as their smell can taint other foods. Wrapping also helps retain their moisture.
Look for leeks that have a firm, white lower portion — the part that’s commonly used in cooking — and bright green leaves. Smaller leeks are more tender but only very young ones are usually eaten raw. Leeks have a strong onion flavour but once cooked, become quite sweet and delicate. Generally they can be substituted for onions in all sorts of dishes, but be careful not to overcook them as they can become slimy and mushy. They should be tender, but retain a little firmness.
- These veges are tricky to wash as soil can become firmly lodged between the leaves. Top and tail them and remove any tough outer layers. If you want to keep them whole, slice vertically right through to the centre. Rinse well under running water, pulling back the leaves as you go. Alternatively, slice the leeks and wash under running water in a colander.
- Add cooked leeks to mashed spuds for extra flavour and fibre.
- Pureéd leeks make a great soup base.