Whenever I buy leeks, I never know ahead of time what to do with them. It always reminds me of a woman I met in a grocery store in Florida while doing my weekly shopping. I grabbed leeks, and she looked at me with awe and admiration and asked,
"What in the world can you do with those?"
This made me smile inside and out, because I love to share food knowledge with anyone willing to chat with me, and I'm usually on the receiving end of the knowledge, so being on the giving end made my heart warm.
I don't remember what I told her exactly, but I must have given her examples (stew, slice and sautée, use the greens, etc..)
That day, the woman bought leeks for the first time in her life, and I really hope she enjoyed them, because leeks are fabulous. They are like giant sweet green onions. No, they aren't like them, they are them. They pair superbly well with seafood, but they also pair extremely well with themselves!
Naturally, as I cook my way through Plenty, I knew this recipe would be another lesson in life. The funny part is, as I was cooking, I was reminded of the method of Japanese Okonomiyaki. This is really like a Mediterranean version of the Japanese pancake.. with a bit of egg snow genius, of course. Brilliant, as usual.
From Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, Funny Onions page 36.
Yield 8 "burgers"
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed and sliced into 2 cm slices
5 shallots, diced
few pinches fleur de sel
cracked black pepper
1 fresh red chile, seeded and diced
handful chopped parsley
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric (I used freshly grated)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar (optional and totally unnecessary)
2 eggs, whites separated
150 mL (5 fl oz) milk
30g melted butter
120g (4.2oz) self rising flour (I used normal + 1/2 tsp baking soda)
1 Tbsp baking powder
enough olive oil to cook the patties
Cilantro Garlic Dressing:
1 plain yogurt (125g or 4.4oz)
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 handful parsley
3 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 lime
cracked black pepper
drizzle olive oil
1. In a wide heavy based pan, heat the oil and sautée the leeks and shallots with a few pinches fleur de sel and some cracked black pepper. Cook, stirring on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender.
2. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the rest of the "main event" ingredients. Let cool. You don't need it to cool down to cold, but you don't want it so hot that the batter cooks as you mix it in.
3. While you are waiting for the main event to cool, make the dressing. Blend the dressing ingredients together.
There, you're done with that dressing. That took about 3 seconds.
4. Make the batter. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the melted butter, then beat in the milk until homogenous. Add the flour and baking powder and beat well.
5. Pour this part of the batter into the bowl with the leeks and stir to incorporate.
6. In another bowl, make snow with the egg whites. Or to be less poetic, beat them stiff. Carefully fold this into the leak and batter mixture. This is the secret weapon part.
7. You are ready to cook the patties into fritters or burgers or pancakes or whatever you want to call them!
Heat about 2-3 Tbsp olive oil in your wide heavy based pan and spoon the leek mixture into approx 4 large patties. These should be burger sized (not oversized burger, but to give an idea). Cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp. Remove onto paper towels and keep warm while you do the next batch, adding oil each time.
I served mine over some salad and baby spinach with daikon and sweet potato fries, drizzled with the dressing.
This was such a lovely creation. It was a huge success. The texture was crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, full of spice with a bite of garlic in the dressing.
This is real art.
This would do well as an appetizer in smaller "patties" dipped in the dressing as finger food as well. It is actually so versatile I've been eating it for 3 days and I'm still not tired of it.
Pair it with pasta, with chickpeas, with tomato salad... dream of it, have the aroma follow you to work, look at the remaining patties longingly.. plan to make it again..