Joerg is one of the world’s greatest gardeners. If he leaves a tool out with a wooden handle, voila, we have a spade tree. In February, we cut back the vines at the front of the house and he stuck some of the off cuts into the ground….now we have more vines to cut back. Same with the red currant bushes. He also always plants as though we are going to be asked by WHO to supply food to all of Africa on a daily basis. My current surplus is leeks, which was preceded by winter lettuce and Swiss chard. We let one chard plant go to seed last year, let it self-seed and we get new plants coming up daily. Anyone out there have chard recipes for a desperate woman?? Anyone want any chard plants??
The leeks are being closely followed by artichokes and broad beans, both of which have been sown in enormous quantities. Potatoes and onions, of course, but these keep well and don’t have to be dealt with immediately. Then there are all the fruit shrubs and trees and the summer vegetable plantings. If you are hungry AND like to do weeding, come on over! It’s not that I don’t love everything that we grow; it’s just that it’s sooo much!! But working on the principle of rather too much than too little, I have come up with some great leek recipes for you. And leeks freeze remarkably well and don’t need to be blanched beforehand, so it’s easy peezy to deal with a glut.
If you read my post titled “Asseing – you try and say it”, you would have already had a short introduction to Kristel and Nicolas, a lovely French couple that we have recently befriended. She is a computer science specialist and he is a “genie mecanique”. I just love the word!
“So what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, I’m a Genius.”
Don’t you just love the French language? In English it’s mechanical engineer and still impressive, but I like the French word way better. They are such nice people and also have a big garden and great recipes for everything, including (thank goodness) the pervasive leek. Food and French people go hand in hand, so we somehow always get onto food. It’s one of the many reasons why we chose to live here.
They gave me 4 leek ideas and I am in the process of trying them all and will eventually get together detailed recipes and photos for you. There’s the Leeks in vinaigrette, Leeks with Scallops, Leek Quiche or Leek and Boudin Blanc (white sausage). Yesterday I made a Leek and Potato soup a’ la Crystal that was very good. I added fennel seeds and tarragon and really liked these additions. I am not an aniseed person, but the slight fennel taste was very good. And the tarragon was a perfect addition too. I have just planted tarragon in my herb garden and can’t wait to use it with tomatoes in the summertime. I also topped the soup with sautéed leek strips, fried potato cubes and sliced ham. This not only looks good, but also makes the soup a more substantial meal.
The last of the leeks had just started to bolt so we brought in the rest of the harvest today. For the non-gardeners among you, this means that they were just about to flower and so the inside of the leek has developed a thicker middle piece, which would eventually produce a flower. In onions, this is quite hard and not palatable, but we have found it really tasty in leeks, if you don’t leave them to develop too much. The day before yesterday we had a braai (the South African word for a barbeque) and brushed some of the smaller leeks with garlic oil and put them on the grill. Fantastic. The outside was brown and the inside soft and almost sweet in flavour. We cut off the outer layers of a couple of leeks and ate the insides raw – the bottom tastes a bit oniony and then slightly higher up it’s really sweet. We are always trying things in their raw state and you would be surprised how nice things taste.
The photo at top is of the leeks “sans” (without) the green leafy bits. I do normally use them as well, but our rabbits love them, so I cut them off for them. They have onion smelling poo at the moment. (In the photo they are eating artichoke leaves) They also love Swiss chard, a fact that pleases me greatly. (Still send me recipes though as even they can’t keep up with the chard!) Kristel and Nicolas came over for Sunday lunch a week or so ago with one of their sons, Guillame (I think this is how you spell it as you say it Giom), and we had Greek style Rabbit, which had “Giom” oohing with taste delight. 10 points for me! I also made a Greek Leek and Feta tart which was okay. Definitely needs more flavour so I will have to adapt it before posting it. But all this in good time and so today you get Leek and Potato soup.
LEEK AND POTATO SOUP
1 tbsp olive oil
2 – 3 leeks, washed thoroughly and chopped
5 – 6 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 – 2 liters chicken stock
½ - 1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp Soy sauce, or more to taste
2 potatoes, cubed
1 small leek, cut into long strips
2 slices ham, diced
1. Sauté the leeks in the oil for a few minutes and then add the rest and simmer till done, about 30 minutes. Puree and serve with toppings.
2. TOPPINGS: I parboiled the potatoes and then quickly fried them in a little olive oil to give them color. You don’t need to parboil them, but then the frying takes longer. Slice the leek thinly lengthwise and also fry it quickly in olive oil. I have seen other recipes where they are deep fried, but I prefer to use less oil. After removing the leeks from the pan, add the diced ham for a minute to warm through. You can prepare the toppings and put them in a low oven to keep warm if you want to, as they don’t have to be piping hot – the soup is already that!