According to Leanne Kitchen, whose book I'm reading intermittently at the moment - it's called Grower's Market: Cooking with Seasonal Produce, is half price in Borders at the moment and has extremely interesting commentaries on almost all fruit and veg that you could imagine - leeks used to be very highly esteemed and still are in some cultures. In ours, leeks often, she points out, end up relegated to the soup or stock pot, despised in their own right. I like leeks and am happy to do my bit to give the leek some recognition. My long-term leek recipe comes from Nigella Lawson and involves leeks, butter and white wine; I vaguely recall that she says this is a German technique, but I could be wrong. Anyway I haven't really ventured beyond this in leek-preparation and welcomed the chance to try something new. The title of the recipe (leek soldiers) also appealed to me because it looked and sounded a bit different and in vegetable terms I am always trying to vary my repertoire and pep up our meals a bit. I love vegetables (can't think of one I don't care for) and I like to mix them up a bit; there's nothing worse than steamed broccoli, say, three days in a row, however virtuous it may sound.
Jamie's slow-cooked leek soldiers with bacon serves 6-8. I know I should have waited to cook this for 6-8 people but I was impatient and, in any case, I rarely cater for that many people. Anyway I did the complicated maths and planning, and made it for two. To make this dish for 6-8 people: trim the ends of 12 leeks and discard the outer layers; cut off the dark green parts, slice and wash them, and fry in a little olive oil with garlic, thyme and a knob of butter for about 10 minutes; spread them over the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Cut the white sections of the leeks into 5cm pieces and pack them tightly into the dish on top of the garlic, thyme and green leek mixture. Add a wineglass of white wine and 285 ml chicken/vegetable stock and lay the bacon rashers over the top, before covering with dampened scrunched greaseproof and then foil. Cook in an oven preheated to 200C for about an hour, remove the foil and greaseproof and replace in the oven for 30 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and golden.
Hmm. It is probably now you've seen the photographic evidence that I have to admit that my soldiers didn't all stand to attention. This is because I didn't have the right sized dish for the number of leeks appropriate for 2 people to eat with pork chops and sweet potato mash. Stupid, I know, but my individual pie dishes were too small and everything else too big. I went for too big and some of my leeks, not tightly packed in at all, toppled over. I still found it pretty.
When it is ready, remove the bacon and chop it up, sprinkling it over the leeks.
My leeks might not all have remained standing, but once served up and sprinked with bacon noone would be able to tell. The leeks are delicious - the winey juices, plus the bacon fat, make them incredibly tasty. Bacon tends to do that to vegetables.
This is certainly a vegetable dish to repeat, even if the leeks topple over due to the wrong sized dish. The pork chops are, incidentally, cooked according to a Hugh F-W recipe in his Meat book, with garlic and then white wine. They were pretty good too. A nice, homely weekday dinner, which I would definitely make again.