Leeks are one of those vegetables that just don’t get the respect they deserve.
People have been feasting on them for thousands of years — they’re mentioned several times in the Old Testament and they were apparently a favourite of Roman Emperor Nero. From Turkey to Britain, leeks have a role in several national cuisines.
But for many North Americans, they’re a bit like celeriac or kohlrabi — one of those vegetables that you pass by in the grocery store because you’re not quite sure what to do with it.
That’s a shame, because leeks are versatile, delicious, and extremely good for you. They’re an excellent source of antioxidants as well as a number of vitamins and minerals.
While their wild leek cousins are prized for their intense garlicky flavour, cultivated leeks are very mild with a gentle onionishness to them that goes well with just about anything.
In this recipe, we’re pairing them with beef and beef stock for an umami-rich meal that is absolutely perfect in mid-winter, particularly when served with a loaf of crusty bread and a hearty red wine.
The one essential step when preparing leeks is to wash them well. They are grown in sandy soil, and fine sand can be trapped between each layer of the leaves. The best way to clean them is to slice them first, and place them in a bowl of cold water. Stir them around to dislodge any soil, then scoop the leeks out of the water and into a colander to drain, ensuring you leave any soil particles behind in the soaking water.
People are sometimes advised to discard the dark green leaves, but that’s not necessary if you’re simmering the soup for a long time.. The darker leaves are tougher, but they have plenty of flavour and will cook down so they are just as tender as the whites.
2 or 3 large leeks, sliced into rings and washed
2 cups spinach
2 cups chopped kale
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped celery
6 green onions, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
7 cups beef broth
1 cup hearty red wine
2 lbs stewing beef
2 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
In the slow cooker, saute the beef in the oil until it is just browned. Add the garlic and paprika and saute for a couple of minutes to release the flavours.
Then add all the remaining ingredients. Cook at least 4 hours to let the flavours blend.
If you’re short on time, this dish also works really well in a pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
For a different take on this dish, replace the beef with lamb. Adding a cup or so of barley will make the soup even more hearty.