Braised Leeks with Sweet Lentils and Gravy
Leeks are phenomenally cheap at the moment, and are a great flavour base for meals. Typically I would slice the whites into rounds and add them to risotto or pasta. This recipe, from spectacular food blog Sprouted Kitchen, honours the otherwise humble vegetable and makes them the protagonist of the dish. Buttery leeks are paired with sweet, tangy lentils, crunchy breadcrumbs, and a gravy whisked up from the cooking liquid.
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
˝ tsp salt
1 ˝ cups liquid beef stock
˝ cup water
2 cups brown lentils
˝ tsp salt
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 — 3 tbs rice wine vinegar
Small handful soft brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs butter, melted
1 tbs white flour
1/3 cup panko crumbs, or regular breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
Small handful of roughly chopped fresh coriander, basil or parsley (optional)
Method01 | Remove the green parts from the leeks, and slice the tough part of the bottoms off. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse with cold water to remove any dirt.
02 | Melt the first measure of butter, olive oil, and salt together in a large, deep frypan. Add the leeks, cut side down, and cook until golden brown. Turn over and cook until the other side is golden brown. Pour over the beef stock and water. Adjust the heat if necessary to allow the liquid to come to a gentle boil, then partially cover and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook the leeks for 20 — 30 minutes, or until soft.
03 | Meanwhile, place the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with 3 cups of water and the second measure of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until just soft. If the water evaporates while the lentils are still hard, add a little more water. If there is any water left in the pot when the lentils reach the desired texture, simply turn the heat up and cook the excess water off. I like my lentils with some bite to them. Do whatever works for you.
04 | Heat the second measure of olive oil in a large, deep frypan. Add the lentils and cook over a high heat for one minute, stirring occasionally. Add a small measure of the rice wine vinegar – say, one tablespoon – and the soft brown sugar. Stir for a further minute or two over the heat, adding more rice vinegar until its tanginess is balanced with the sweetness from the sugar.
05 | Mix the flour into the second measure of melted butter. Remove the leeks from the pan and transfer them to serving plates. Whisk the flour mixture into the cooking liquid from the leeks. Turn the heat up and stir constantly until you have a delicious, thick gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
06 | Place the lentils on top of the leeks. Pour the gravy over, followed by the breadcrumbs and fresh herbs.
Serves five people for around $12.
Photo courtesy James Stringer