Poor man’s asparagus – that’s what the French used to think about Leeks. Well peurph, bish and tosh to the French!
Whether leeks are a poor man’s asparagus or not and leaving the French out of the equation how often do you make a dish where Leeks are the focus? To answer to my own question – rarely. They tend to be part of a dish to enhance the flavours, I see them as a vegetable to start a soup or risotto with and not the star of the show; time to change those lazy thoughts and use our imaginations.
I find the hardest part of the veggie gardening year is January and February when the winter vegetables are petering out and the new season veggies have yet to make a start. The flow of fresh greens gradually dwindles but I can rely on Leeks to provide me with fresh pickings from the allotment. Home grown Leeks are sturdy souls both pungent and delicious. Think of them as a gardener’s friend – they take little or no effort, seem to have few if any predators and withstand all weathers. Perfect for time poor gardeners like me.
All of which brings me round to today’s recipe. Years ago a Dutch friend prepared an asparagus dish in what she described as both a classic Dutch recipe and her favourite way to eat Asparagus. I’ve never forgotten how good that Asparagus tasted and having recently come across a Sophie Grigson recipe that she calls Poor Man’s Asparagus I was instantly reminded of my friend’s recipe. So while the Asparagus has a way to go before I can pick those first tender spears, I’ll happily substitute Leeks and give the imported Asparagus a miss.
Grigson’s recipe is like the Dutch version in that the Asparagus spears are served with chopped boiled egg, parsley and a vinaigrette. This recipe is simple, cheap, seasonal and can be made in advance – the leeks are best served at room temperature. The recipe is perfect as a starter, a light lunch or a side dish; what better way to celebrate one of the vegetable garden’s unsung heroes?
Poor Man’s Asparagus
Based on a Sophie Grigson recipe for 2 servings
- 2 leeks trimmed, washed and cut in half down the middle to make 4 smaller pieces
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 1 ½ tbs olive oil
- ½ tbs white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, chopped very finely (optional)
- Hard boil an egg, cool and shell it and leave it to one side.
- In a small bowl make the vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil, white wine vinegar, mustard adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Steam or microwave the leeks until they are cooked and tender – I microwave mine in a 900W microwave on full heat for 1 minute and 20 seconds – the times will vary based on how fresh and big the leeks are
- While the Leeks are still warm arrange them on a serving dish and pour over the dressing, turn the leeks gently over in the dressing to make sure they are well coated.
- In a separate bowl mash the egg into fine crumbs with a fork.
- When you are ready to serve, scatter the pieces of egg on top off the Leeks and then sprinkle the chopped parsley over the top.