Leeks, like spring onions, grow with a head of tall, spiky leaves that are usually trimmed while they’re down in the field. Returning plant matter back into the soil isn’t a bad thing, but composting edible food shouldn’t be our first choice. So look out for leeks with their tops intact: they are as flavourful, if not more so, than the white part.
The tougher green leaves need to be finely sliced across the grain, but other than that, they can be used in much the same way as the rest of this fabulous vegetable.
Other ways to use up the odds and ends of a leek include: wrap a bouquet garni in the tough outer skin, for flavouring soups and stews; dehydrate pieces of the leaves into crisps; toast the cleaned roots and any other trimmings, and sprinkle over all kinds of dishes; or freeze them for stock.
Leek soup with crisp green leek tops
Many recipes for leek soup call for just the white part of the leek, probably to keep the soup a paler colour, but the greens have just as much, if not more, flavour, and colour the soup a brilliant light green. The fried green leek tops make a delicious topping, not just for this soup, but on salads, rice dishes and stews, too, adding a rich, umami seasoning.
1 leek (about 250g), washed
½ small onion, diced
1 floury potato (about 220g), diced
500ml vegetable stock (or water)
Sea salt and black pepper
120ml whole milk
Light olive oil, for frying
Cream, to serve (optional)
Finely chop about four tablespoons of thin green strips from the very top of the leek and set aside to dry. Roughly chop the rest of the leek and put it in a medium saucepan with the onion, potato and stock, season and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the milk, then blend the soup until smooth and season to taste.
To make the crisp green leek tops, heat a small saucepan with a good glug of oil over a medium-high heat. Drop in a piece of leek, and when it bubbles and floats to the surface, add the rest and fry for a couple of minutes, until they go crisp but still maintain some of their colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve on top of the soup with a dash of cream, if you like.