Moules Mouclade

This week I went for a medium veg box original. At this time of year leeks often replace onions in the boxes for a few weeks and I always get caught out, because I just expect onions to be in the fridge at all times. I am constantly surprised to find that there are none there. Recipes are easily adapted to the leek instead, but the substitution of leek often results in me changing the recipe altogether.
Mussels are in season now and make a lovely, simple and quick supper. I can’t quite remember where I first came across this recipe for Moules Mouclade although I suspect it was when I did a stage at Rick Steins, down in Padstow, many moons ago. Leeks replace the shallots in its more famous variation of Moules Mariniere and its mild curry sauce is especially good moped up with a piece of bread.

Moules Mouclade

Moules Mouclade
2 kilo mussels
Butter
2 leeks, shredded. washed well and drained well
2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
500 ml white wine
1 teaspoons Madras curry powder (medium strength)
1 teaspoon cumin
125 ml double cream or crème fraiche
Small bunch fresh coriander

Soak the mussels in some clean, cold water and – if they haven’t been dealt with in the shop – sort through them, de-bearding, and knocking off any barnacles with the back of a small knife. Tip the mussels into a colander, discarding any that haven’t closed.

Take a large pan with a lid. Add a large knob of butter and the sweat the leeks for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid catching. Add the sliced garlic, the curry powder and cumin and fry for a moment more. Next add the mussels and the white wine, put on the lid and cook on a high heat for about 3 minutes. Shake the pan around as they are cooking. When you lift the lid, the mussels should have opened. Discard any that haven’t. Add the double cream or crème fraiche and the freshly chopped coriander. Taste the sauce, adjust to taste and serve.

Leeks cut

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad

One bonus of cooking the same thing three times in one week is that you really get to fine-tune them. Take this salad that I have been making. I started off with a recipe from Ottolenghi for a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad from his fantastic book Jerusalem. But as I made it again and again, I gradually began to tweak the ingredients. I had already added flat beans to the original as I had some in the box to use up and I thought they would work well. Although I liked the idea of the tamarind in Ottolenghi’s recipe, I felt it was not necessary as it already had so much vinegar it was almost too sour. Then the pomegranate seeds may have looked pretty, but I did not feel that they added much else. I upped the balsamic to counteract the sour and added a little mustard as it compliments both leeks and beetroot so well. Finally, I added some roast carrots as I had some in my box and I hate to turn on the oven for only one thing. So I guess by the end of the week the recipe was no longer really Ottolenghi’s rather than my own, but I think that adapting recipes for personal taste is what good cooking is all about. Come to think of it, a little goat’s cheese scattered on top may be rather nice with the walnuts. Better stop now or I’ll be changing it again.

Poaching Leeks

I think we often run out of ideas for leeks and  forget how well they work in a salad. If you find prepping beetroot tiresome, may I recommend some Veggie Gloves.

Veggie Gloves

They are great for scrubbing and peeling beetroot, protect your hands and they wash clean, back to their original, lovely bright green with no trouble at all. Super useful for carrots and potatoes too.

Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, trimmed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into wedges lenghtways
Olive oil
4 medium leeks, trimmed and cut into 4-inch pieces
1 bunch of flat beans
Mixed Salad Leaves
Dressing:
100g walnuts, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. For a little while. At the same time, toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30minutes checking regularly and stirring to ensure even roasting.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into bite-sized wedges. Transfer to a bowl. IOnce the carrots are golden brown and tender remove from the oven.

Top and tail the flat beans and cut into 1” pieces on the diagonal. Cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 miutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Drain well and leave to dry.

For the leeks, you cannot cut the leeks open otherwise the pieces will fall apart, so it is important to look for dirt in the top, leafier green pieces and wash well. Grit can ruin this dish. To cook the leeks, place in a medium saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the leeks are just tender. Do not cook for too long otherwise they will lose their colour, so keep the heat quite high but you do not want them to fall to pieces and become waterlogged.As soon as they are tender remove from the water and leave to drain really well on kitchen towel.

To make the dressing, combine the walnuts, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar’s, oil, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature to combine the flavours.

Gently toss the beets with half of the dressing and the leeks and carrots with the remaining dressing.

To serve, place some of the salad leaves onto serving plates, top with a few beets, followed by more salad leaves, some beans, some leeks, and then a few more beets and some more leeks, scatter with carrots, until you have layered the whole dish and used everything, Serve straight away.

Beetroot in a bag 2

Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin

Next up. I managed to get a bit behind with my potato consumption and they were piling up, somewhat out of control in the vegetable basket. Anyone who know my cooking, will know that I make rather a lot of potato gratins. I tend to incorporate all sorts of greens as a hidden middle layer –from Cavalo Nero to Kale to Cabbage. The potato can just as easily be replaced, be it celeriac, parsnip, carrot, beetroot or swede. The possibilities are endless. This is one of my favourites – Potato, Leek and Mushroom. The mushroom adds a meatiness which makes it substantial enough to serve on its own just maybe with a salad. For a real treat add a little white truffle oil with the mushrooms once you have removed them from the heat.

Potato, leek and mushroom gratin on plate

Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin
This makes a very large gratin. You can cut the amount easily by 1/3 or 2/3
1 cup milk (250mls)
3 cups Double cream (750mls)
3 whole peeled garlic cloves
Small bunch of thyme, tied tightly with a piece of string
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sliced mushrooms
3 Leeks cut in rings
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 pounds (1.4kg) baking potatoes, sliced thin

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, whole garlic cloves and thyme over low-medium heat being careful not to boil over. Gently boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, coat a frying pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute more. Remove. Heat another frying pan and sauté leeks in butter and olive oil until just beginning to caremelise for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange 1/2 of the sliced potatoes. Arrange remaining potatoes on top. Press the layers down with a spatula to condense.

Remove the thyme fron the cream, pressing it to remove the juices. Mash up the garlic cloves until they dissolve. Check the seasoning of the cream. It needs to season all those potatoes. Pour the infused milk over the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil and place in a preheated 170 degree oven. Bake for about 1 hour until the potatoes are tender. A knife should easily insert in the middle. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until gratin is golden around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

leeks in pan

Baked Leeks with Ham and Cheese

Next this week, I had a real craving for some baked leeks with Ham and Cheese which is just one of my favourite things to eat. As this recipe uses so little ham, I decided to go for something special and I opted for some very nice Jambon de Bayonne from the deli counter. This cured ham is a perfect shape to wrap round the leeks lengthways, which is rather satisfying.

Leeks with Procuitto

The most important thing to remember when using leeks is that leeks are gritty and a little grit can completely ruin your dish. I like to slit them lengthways, leaving the root intact and them wash well, checking in between the layers to make sure that they are clean. Next, you must drain them well or the remaining water will dilute your cheese sauce. But apart from that, you can’t really go wrong.

Leeks wrapped in ham 2

Baked Leeks with Ham and Cheese
Serves 2
6 medium leeks
6 slices good quality cured ham such as Prosciutto, Parma ham or Bayonne ham

For the cheese sauce –
40g butter
40g flour
500mls milk
2 tsp dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g grated parmesan, gruyere, or cheddar

 
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Meanwhile trim the green top off the leek and trim the root. Slit the leaks through lengthways, leaving the root intact. Wash well and cook in in the boiling water for about 5-10 minutes until tender. A knife should easily insert into the base of the leek. Remove from the water and leave to thoroughly drain. Make the cheese saucer by melting the butter in a small pan. Remove from the heat. Add the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Return to a low heat and cook until it takes on a sandy texture. Remove from the heat. Pour in the milk, stirring or whisking all the time with the wooden spoon until the milk is incorporated. Return to the heat and stir until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Stir in a good pinch of salt and pepper and add the mustard and the cheese. Stir well and adjust seasoning. Wrap each leak in a slice of ham and lay in a gratin dish. Pour over the cheese sauce making sure you cover all the leeks. Bake for 30 mins until golden and tender. Serve with a green salad.

Slit leeks

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup

I started this week with a small veg box (less roots) and being the time of year, I was confronted with yet more runner beans. I hate to sound a little dismayed but sometimes a particular vegetables begins to get you down. It is not that I don’t like runner beans, it is just two things that upset me. Firstly that I feel that runner beans are usually best when really fresh just lightly boiled or steamed with a little butter but that does not make a very exciting blog post. Secondly, it is very hard to find really good recipes with runner beans that justifies the extra work rather than just boiling or steaming them and serving them with a little butter. Whatever you do decide to do with your runner beans, make sure you take the time to quickly run a peeler down each side of the bean to remove any stinginess before you cut them up. This little tip improves their texture tenfold.

Peeling Runner Beans

Believe it or not, I go to great lengths to think up recipes which I feel are not just an excuse for using up a vegetable. I am very determined that every recipe that goes in this blog is something that you are really going to want to eat. Or at least something that I am really going to want to eat. I was thrilled with my first idea for a Salad Nicoise with runner beans, favourably substituting the traditional French beans. But I looked out the window and it was pouring, literally bucketing it down. Not salad weather I thought, I will have to try harder. More warming, comforting soup weather. We all need comforting when August feels more like winter.

What I love about this soup is that it is supper quick. I have written about the joys of ready cooked, pulled ham hock before and here it is combined with lots of lovely vegetables, cannellini beans, pasta and runner beans. I really feel the runner beans are not an afterthought, but somehow belong in this recipe.

I got a complimentary bunch of basil in my box which you could whiz up with a little olive oil and add to your soup if you like but a little grated parmesan is my favourite addition. Apart from that, your only other decision is what pasta to use. I opted for the very pretty looking Mafalda Corta which is from Campania in Italy but I found in Waitrose. In the past I used anything from Orzo to alphabet pasta or broken spaghetti. I have got to say that it was most definitely a perfect meal to cheer you up on a very wet summer’s day.
If you want to cook your own ham hocks, place them in cold water, bring to the boil, then add a carrot, onion, leek and stick of celery (all chopped in half), some thyme and white pepper-corns. Simmer for a couple of hours until you can pick the hocks up and the meat falls from the bone.
To adapt for vegetarians, exclude the ham hock and use vegetable stock or water.

Ham Hock soup with Parmesan

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup
180g ham hock, cooked and shredded
1 litre chicken stock or use good quality stock cubes (or use the liquid from cooking the hocks)
2 carrots peeled and sliced into 5mm thickness
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery sliced into 5mm lozenges
1 small leek shredded
A handful of runner beans
A tin of cannellini beans drained
80g dried pasta
Olive oil
Wash the vegetables. Then in a large pan add the olive oil, carrot, onion, leek and celery season with salt and pepper. Sauté for five minutes until they start to soften but without any colour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Check seasoning and if it needs salt add some now. Add the pasta and cook as per packet instructions. Meanwhile peel your runner beans down each length with a peeler. Top and tail the beans and then cut diagonally into thin strips. When the pasta is done, add the ham-hock, runner beans and cannellini beans and bring to the boil. Cook until runner beans are done. Check seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, parmesan or basil oil.

Veg for Ham Hock Soup