“We’re well used to tomato sauces”, says Grigson, “I don’t know why we haven’t gone further along the road, using other vegetables in the same kind of way”. This has always confused me; the only tomato sauce I know is either the tomato sauce for pasta or the tomato sauce that comes in bottles as ketchup. The recipe is obviously for neither. I can’t find a tomato sauce recipe that seems even remotely similar – even during the nineteenth century, tomato sauces were made for macaroni, simply stewed with olive oil and garlic and some herbs as we do nowadays.
I beseech you heartily, scurvy, lousy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek: because, look you, you do not love it, nor your affections and your appetites and your digestions doo’s not agree with it, I would desire you to eat it….if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek.
I like to get a bit of Shakespeare in whenever I can.
There’ll be no mocking of leeks on this blog. They are one of my favourites, though I don’t really eat them that often. The main reason, I think, is that no matter how much I wash them before preparing them, there is always some grit – invisible to the naked eye – that ends up in the final dish. I’m always so thorough too. Hey-ho, a bit of dirt is fine. In fact there’s an old Yorkshire saying: tha’s got to eat a peck o’muck before you die. Indeed.
Here’s a pie that sounds great – leeks, cream and bacon in pastry. Nothing can be bad about this one, with or without grit.
I assumed that this recipe was a Welsh one, but no, variations of it are found across Britain and France. Grigson doesn’t say that much about it, other than in France onion and flour are added to the filling, so technically this is the French version, but let’s not split hairs.
To make the pie, you’ll need to buy or make some shortcrust or puff pastry. I made some shortcrust. You’ll need to make a shortcrust that uses 10 ounces of flour and five of fat; I did eight and four respectively and only just managed to get away with it.
To make the filling, chop and onion and cook it in an ounce of butter until soft and golden. Meanwhile, trim, wash and chop a pound of leeks. Slice the green part thinly, as it is quite tough and takes longer to cook than the white part. Add the leeks to the onions along with two ounces more of butter. Season with salt and pepper. It’s important to add the salt at this point as it draws the liquid from the leeks, concentrating their flavour.
When softened and mushy, turn off the heat and add four ounces of chopped back bacon. Now measure four ounces of double or clotted cream – weight, not volume – and beat in a teaspoon of flour. Pour this over the leeks and bacon and allow to cool.
Roll out two thirds of your pastry and line a nine inch tart tin. Add the filling and roll out a lid with the remaining pastry, using beaten egg as a glue. Crimp the edges and ‘decorate in restrained manner’. I just made some fluting around the edge. Brush with egg and make a hole in the centre so the steam can escape. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F) or until the pastry is nice and brown, then turn the heat down to 180°C (350°F) for another twenty to thirty minutes.
#288 Leek Pie. What a great pie! The filling became a rich and delicious mush with subtle onion and leek flavour. The secret to this – as with so many of the best in English Food – is the that are just a few ingredients cooked slowly over a low heat with a good amount of seasoning. It was just as delicious cold as it was hot. One of the best recipes thus far I’d say. Go and cook it! 9.5/10.
“And my lords and lieges, let us all to dinner, for the cockie-leekie is a-cooling.”
So it is not necessarily exclusively Scottish. It is also not a soup. It’s a good, hearty and simple dish: beef, chicken, leeks and prunes all stewed together. All you need is some slow cooking time. Have a go and make it for a lazy Sunday dinner as I did. It serves at least 6 people:
Start off by placing a two-pound slice of stewing steak in the bottom of a deep stockpot. Cover with water and bring it to a boil slowly, skimming off any scum as it rises to the top. Simmer for an hour and hten season well with salt and pepper. Meanwhile trim three pounds of leeks and tie half of them in a bundle. When the hour is up place them in the pot. Simmer for a further half an hour before adding a whole chicken or capon and sit it on top of the beef (you can use a boiling fowl; if so, add it when you add the leeks). The cockie-leekie now needs to simmer gently for an hour and a half. Twenty minutes before it is ready remove the bundle of leeks and add a pound of prunes. Now slice the remaining leeks up and add those in the final five minutes. Easy.
To serve it, place some beef and a piece of chicken in large bowl and cover with the thick, dark and rich stock. A meal in itself, though I did some boiled new potatoes too.
#225 Cockie-Leekie. Really good food, especially for this time of year when all is miserable and wet outside. This is home-cooking at its simplest and finest. The stock produce from the beef and prunes was lovely and rich, but did not detract from the subtly-flavoured chicken. Really good one this one. 7.5/10.
During this rubbish weather (God, I am so English – all I do is talk about the weather) there is nothing like a good pie. The Farmers Market in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens just happened to be on as I was walking through and I saw a stall selling some very nice free range farm chickens and so I snapped one up. I then consulted the book for chicken recipes and decided on this. It seemed a little bit like the pork and apple pie I did a while ago in that there is no gravy or sauce per se but runny juices instead. I was slightly concerned about this as it was a major short-falling in the pork pie. Anyways, I have cook everything in this book whether I like it or not.
It is best to start this pie the day before you want to cook it, or at least in the morning. Start by placing a roasting or boiling chicken in a close-fitting pan along with a quartered, unpeeled onion, two tablespoons of chopped celery (a stalk, in other words), a bouquet garni and some salt and pepper. Place a close fitting lid on top, bring to a boil and simmer until cooked. The cooking time will be dependent upon the type of chicken you have – around 45 minutes for roasters, and at least an hour for boilers. Let the chicken cool in the stock (leave overnight if you want). Remove it and strip the carcass, cutting the meat into nice chunks. Skim the stock – if it seems a bit bland, add more seasoning or return the bones to the pot and simmer again. You could also reduce the stock after straining it too.
Arrange the pieces of chicken in a pie dish along with 4 ounces of sliced ox tongue that has been cut up. Next, wash, trim and slice a load of leeks – Griggers says eight in all, but I reckon that that it all depends on the size of your pie dish. Either way, blanch them for two minutes in salted water before draining and adding to the pie dish. Chop two tablespoons of parsley and sprinkle that over and then ladle the stock over the lot until it comes up about half way up the chicken and veg. Season well. Cover with shortcrust pastry (the amount will depend on the dimensions of your pie dish). To make sure you get a good seal, when you roll it out cut a strip of pastry and glue it around the rim of the dish with some beaten egg. Brush glued pastry with more egg and lay the pastry over. Press it down, make a central hole and brush the top with egg. Bake at 230⁰C for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180-190⁰C for another 20. Allow to cool a little before you eat it. It had it with mash and peas.
#209 Chicken and Leek Pie from Wales. This was a really good pie – the stock was very flavoursome and ensured the chicken remained very moist. I’m not sure what the point of the tongue was though. It is also very nice cold – the stock cools to become a nice, rich jelly; though that kind of thing is not to everybody’s taste. Give it a crack! 7/10.
“People sometimes shudder at the mention of roly-poly puddings” says the Grigson; er, no dear, just the idea of THIS one! Why on Earth is there no jam roly-poly pudding, please!? I’ve been putting off the more weird ones – like this – but they are building up now. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but Griggers really does big this one up. It is cheap though, at least when mussels are in season.
I have only recently been able to pluck up the courage to eat mussels; I’ve always been a bit squeamish with bivalves for some reason. However, I do love mussels now. The Romans loved them too, and they’ve been cultured in France since the late thirteenth century, ever since a shipwrecked Irishman called Patrick Walton was washed up on a French beach and noticed some mussels growing on the fishermen’s nets. I doubt he wrapped them in suet pasty though.
To begin you need to cook your mussels – 48 in all, says Grigson. Scrub them and remove their beards and any parasites. Place them in a hot, wide shallow pan and cover. As soon as the mussels open, take them off the heat. Don’t use any mussels that have not opened. Shell them, reserving any juices, and let them cool. Pass the juices through some muslin into a small pan.
Now make the rest of the stuffing: In a bowl, mix together 3 ounces of finely chopped onion, 2 trimmed and finely chopped leeks, 2 chopped rashers of streaky bacon, 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley and a little salt plus plenty of ground black pepper.
Suet pastry is the easiest pastry to make. Sieve 10 ounces of self-raising flour in a large bowl and mix in a pinch of salt and 5 ounces of shredded suet. Using a knife or your hands, mix in some cold water until a firm and light dough is formed.
You are now ready to construct the rolypoly pudding. Roll the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle over the leek mixture leaving a centimetre border around three sides, and then evenly sprinkle over the mussels. Brush the edges with water and roll up the pastry starting at the borderless end, lastly press down the sides to prevent any leakage from the sides. Wrap it in a tightly-sealed but baggy foil parcel and steam for two hours on a rack in a self-basting roaster. If you don’t have one – use a normal roaster and make a foil lid as I did. When ready, place in an ovenproof serving dish and crisp it up in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes – careful now, it might collapse (see pic!). Whilst that is happening, make the butter sauce. Boil down the reserved mussel liquor, take it off the heat, and whisk in 4 ounces of chilled, cubed butter, bit by bit. Season well, add some chopped parsley, and it is ready.
#189 Mussel and Leek Rolypoly 4.5/10. I though I liked this in the end, but then I wasn’t sure; it certainly wasn’t awful. I even had seconds. The mussels were soft and sweet, the leeks were cooked nicely and the pastry was crisp. The sauce was good too. I think it was too rich, and I ate too much. An unusual one, but I’m not sure I would recommend it.
The first thing to get ready was the Little Leek Tarts. These seemed very simple to make – a leek puree baked in puff pastry (bought, I might add) plus a bit of salad of my own doing. I imagined them to be quite contemporary actually – many restaurants seem to have some kind of tart as a starter these days.
This recipe makes between 12 and 24 tarts, depending how much filling you put in each one:
Begin by trimming and cleaning some leeks – you need 2 pounds trimmed weight (this may seem a lot, but they melt down and concentrate). Chop them up and add them to a heavy-based pan that has 2 generous ounces of butter melted in it. Cover the pan tightly and allow to stew slowly for about 10 or 15minutes. Check inside and stir – the leek should not have changed colour, just reduced in volume. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes with the lid off so that the leeks lose their wetness. This is important to concentrate the flavour. Whilst this is happening cut out circles of puff pastry to line small tart tins and heat the oven to 220°C. Liquidise the leeks and season with salt and pepper and stir through a couple of tablespoons of double cream. Divide the mixture out between the pastry cases and sprinkle a teaspoon of grated Cheddar or Wensleydale cheese over them. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve immediately. To look a bit more swish, I added rocket that had been dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
In reality, we made them first, but actually baked them when everyone arrived and the pheasants had finished cooking.
FYI: the leek became the national ‘flower’ of Wales after a Welsh King called Cadwaladr (c. 633–682) apparently ordered his soldiers to wear them on their helmets in a battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field! This story is probably nonsense, but the best ones usually are…
#121 Little Leek Tarts – 8.5/10. Absolutely delicious! So often are leeks just used as a stock or soup vegetable; this recipe let them shine. The leek puree was light but creamy and went very well with the rich pastry. The only problem (and it was my problem, not the recipes) was that it was very slightly gritty – I obviously rushed the rinsing of a few of the leeks. Oopsey! Oh well, I have learned from my errors and have therefore become a better person because of it. Whatever.
After the success of the Welsh Cawl last month and since it’s been fookin’ freezing of late I thought I’d try something similar – Mutton and Leek Broth. All very much in the same vein. I’ve never cooked mutton before and only eaten once or twice. Plus Grigson says it is “magnificent”. The recipe calls for scrag end of neck, which I managed to get hold of from Frost’s in Chorlton (what would I do without them?); as it’s a cheap cut this soup is really good for those on a budget: 1 ½ pounds for four quid. If you can’t get mutton, you can use lamb. Ask your butcher to chop it up for you as it’s a bit of a hack-saw job.
FYI 1: the neck of a lamb/sheep/veal calf is split into three sections: scrag end nearest the head, which is mainly bone. This is a good thing for broths as it imparts flavour to make a delicious stock. Apparently scrag end is an old fashioned term, and we say ‘round end of neck, presumably because scrag end doesn’t sound too appetising. There’s mid-neck or middle neck and best end of neck too – I’m sure I will get to them in some other recipe.
FYI 2: mutton applies to sheep that have more than two permanent incisors in wear, usually over ayear old.
Like many soups and stews that involve cooking joints and bones up, it’s best to cook it the day before, also the pearl barley requires soaking time so keep this all in mind.
Start by rinsing and soaking 4 ounces of pearl barley in water for four hours. Do some light housework in the meantime, or maybe just watch a film in between. Drain the barley and put it in a large saucepan or stockpot. Trim off any excess fat from the meat (keep any big chunks and freeze them and use for Singin’ Hinnies, which I’ll be cooking very soon) and add the chunks to the pot along with 4 pints of water. Bring it to the boil and simmer it gently for an hour before adding the vegetables: 5 ounces of diced carrot, 4 of diced turnip, a stalk of chopped celery, a chopped leek and 5 ounces of chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper at this point too. Let the broth simmer for at least another hour until the meat is falling off the bones. Cut the meat up and return it to the pot and discard the bones. Skim any fat from the soup – this is the point to leave it over night; solidified fat is much easier to remove. Bring back to the boil and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper, sugar and cayenne pepper. Be quite liberal with the sugar and salt. Slice a second leek thinly and add to the broth along with some chopped parsley and turn off the heat; the residual heat will cook the leek. Serve with granary bread and butter.
#103 Mutton and Leek Broth – 6.5/10. A nice soup that needed a lot of seasoning to make it delicious. I really liked the mild mutton flavour and the pearl barley, but expected it to be much more flavourful. That said, because the batch I made was so big I was still eating it three days later and it did get better as time went by.