Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nature Notes and Signs of the Season

Visit Michelle at the refreshing Nature Notes Thursday for a new look at the world. My topic for today is leeks.

I am not Welsh and have never been to Wales. But March is such a dreary month for me that several years ago when I stumbled across Saint David’s Day, which is March 1, I immediately decided to use it as an excuse to make a theme food. That year I made a savory bread pudding with leeks. It was fantastic and I’ve lost the recipe. I think last year I missed the day, but this year I tried to find that same recipe and I stumbled across some great information about leeks, Wales and Saint David’s Day.

Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, so there’s no better time to gorge on Wales’ most famous food, the humble leek. Leeks: you may remember they were what I grew in the garden this year. Before we got the Devil's Winter Symphony.

The web site I found said many people wear a leek to celebrate Wales’ national day. Wearing a leek is a tradition arising from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks. If everyone's uniform looked different, it wouldn't be an issue. Imagine playing basketball with a leek pinned to your chest.

If you’d prefer to chop and cook leeks instead, then try this delicious Welsh-themed recipe. I made it and it's delicious! Remember that leeks get super dirty as they grow and you should chop them before you clean them.

2 pounds leeks, cleaned well and finely chopped in a food processor
1 pound sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped in a food processor (I baked them and then scooped it out…much faster. Have you ever peeled a sweet potato?)
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp light and mild olive oil
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp each of ground clove, coriander, cumin, mild chili and cardamom (I just used curry from the jar rather than making my own like this)
Generous sprinkling of ground sea salt and black pepper
1.5 pints vegetable stock
300ml single cream (I made the soup without the cream)
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped, leaving a few whole leaves for garnish

1. Gently sweat the shredded leek in the butter and olive oil for 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the spices and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the sweet potato, seasoning and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Whiz in batches in a food processor with the single cream and coriander until smooth. Top with the cilantro and serve with fingers of warm naan bread.

Here are the chopped up leeks in the butter. Mmmmmm good Kerrygold butter.

Here are the chopped leeks getting friendly with the sweet potatoes.

And then I ate it. Sorry no photos of soup. It was incredible and if you really want the cream, you can swirl some right into your bowl of hot soup.

Oh and although I grew all those lovely leeks last summer and froze them, they've all been used already. I bought the leeks for this recipe. Lastly, if you skipped the broth, you would have a good side dish. More about leeks:

In season from November through April, the leek is a great choice for those following a healthy diet. They're very low in calories and packed full of vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin C and folate.

A favourite food of the Romans, leeks are lauded in the Bible (Book of Numbers), have been eaten by saints (St. David), worn by the Welsh into battle and are said to possess mystical qualities.

· If like the Emperor Nero you want to improve your singing voice – eat leeks!
· If you want to see your future husband – sleep with a leek under your pillow!
· If you want to repel invading Saxons – wear a leek in your helmet!


Carver said...

Great post. I'll have to try the recipe sometime.

Stine in Ontario said...

Yum! I love leeks. Wild leeks grow in the forests around here...but it's way too early here yet. I guess the weather must be much milder in Wales. :)

Denise said...

What a wonderful theme for Nature Notes and SOFTS. I enjoyed your post and loved the look of this recipe. Thanks for the share.

A piece of news said...

I wasn't sure how this would go for NN and SOFTS, but I did it because I grew leeks in my garden and I've been thinking of my garden lately.

KaHolly said...

Yummy! I can almost smell it cooking. ~karen

eileeninmd said...

Interesting post, maybe I'll give leeks a try. The recipe sounds good.

MyMaracas said...

Loved your post! I've never tasted a leek, much less worn one or put one under my pillow, but I'll put them on my shopping list and see what comes of it. Fun facts, and the recipe looks delicious.

Rambling Woods said...

What an interesting post Caron. I don't cook with leeks much. If I grew them, I would. But I am interesting in trying this recipe and now I know that you have to clean them really well..I didn't know that the first time I used them. LOL... Michelle

A piece of news said...

Yes! Chop up the leeks and float them in a bowl of water to get the dirt out. Spring the circles of leeks the way you would separate sliced onions into rings. Then rinse them while rubbing them just a little bit. They group up through the dirt in layers, so dirt gets trapped into the layers. I want to know if anyone tries this! Leeks are very good as they are milder than onions.