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What a beautiful sight to behold, these small February leeks grown locally by our friend Emma at Ash and Elm. Wear one into battle with the Saxons, hold it to your heart to profess love, make a crown with daffodils and honor St David, Patron Saint 0f Wales, whose feast day is Sunday and I am making different treats– tune in again soon for a developing situation.

Yesterday it was a gratin, as I’ve been thinking lately about ways to layer and bake vegetables in the oven

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— economical, healthful, easy vegetable-focused family food I want to make more often. These leeks looked so perfect for that, beckoning as they did to the Caerfai Caerphilly, a really fresh, grassy, un-pasteurised, organic traditional cheese from St David’s in Pembrokeshire– the very place of this important Welsh saint.

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The recipes I found for leek gratins followed the principle to simmer the leeks in stock on the hob or in the oven, until they’re very soft and much of the fluid is carmelised and evaporated; at this point, one adds cream (or sauce) and puts the dish (back) in to bake.  I couldn’t face a two hour cook, so I considered a lazy approach, aware that without high heat and long cooking there’d be a fluid problem at the end.

St David’s Gratin: Leek, Spinach, Caerphilly –an approach rather than a precise recipe…

  • As much spinach as you have, or kale, or nettles, cleaned, steamed down, plunged into cold water then squeezed then chopped (I used four handfuls in varying state of needing-to-be-used)
  • 12 small 0r 6 large leeks, or as you wish, outer leaves and sturdier greens removed and reserved for stock, well-washed
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  • white sauce (and why not vegan) 0r better yet, light cream, maybe 1/2 cup
  • a generous handful, 0r two, or gasp! three, grated Caerphilly — or a cashew cheese like this Vegan Parmesan
  • sprinkles of salt, pepper, nutmeg

Simmer or steam the leeks on the stove until soft, saving the water for any culinary purpose. Place the chopped greens in a shallow baking dish, then the steamed leeks on t0p.  Marvel in the shades 0f white-green, yellow-green, and darker greens.

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Add the cream, then the salt and pepper and nutmeg, then the cheese, and maybe drizzle a little more cream on top.

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Bake in a medium oven, covered, f0r 1/2 an hour, then uncover, turning the heat to get a nice light brown and bubbly melting cheese.  When it looks beautiful, let it sit for a some moments to allow any extra liquid to reabsorb.

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Y0u might think this combination tastes like asparagus!  Leeks are so lovely, and silky, and special.  It’s nice to honour them in their own right, as a vegetable on their own, rather than always as supporting elements to more charismatic characters.

And one last note: it’s FUN regenerating foodstuffs. I’ve saved the bottoms of the leeks with the roots to see if they’ll grow back.

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Last time I tried this, they did!

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This I grew inside, in a shallow cup of water, then planted outside.  Let’s see if Emma’s leeks regenerate.  A little bit of magic as February becomes March.

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