Simple roasted leeks with smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese

Let the leeks shine through

Let the leeks shine through

The humble leek is so often overlooked as a star in its own right. Google “leek recipes” on an image search and you’re met with recipe after recipe of pies and tarts and soups but to simply roast it really allows this wonderful allium to shine.

I always grow leeks in my tiny garden but once they are all devoured I turn to my wonderful growers Bridget and Maureen over the border in Lincolnshire. I buy pretty much all my veg from these fab ladies every Sunday at my local car boot sale as they can’t be beaten on quality, freshness and price.

What better to accompany these Lincolnshire leeks than some finely grated smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, an easy match made in flavour heaven and the easiest of starters or side dishes to make.

The charred outer skins take on a wonderful flavour and texture whilst inside the leek is soft and sweet.  A goat’s cheese or Wensleydale would also work beautifully with this dish simply crumbled over before serving.

Roast leeks with smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese:

  • a few leeks, trimmed and washed
  • a fine covering of cooking spray (I used Flora olive spray, you can use butter but the spray allows the flavour of the leeks and cheese to be unimpeded)
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes
  • a light grating of smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese
  • a few sprigs fresh Greek basil
trim your leeks to fit your roasting tin

trim your leeks to fit your roasting tin

  1. Trim the leeks to fit in a roasting tray. Spray lightly and sprinkle over some salt and pepper.
  2. Cook until they look like this

    Cook until they look like this

    Roast in a very hot oven (I use my max setting of 225C) for about 10 minutes or until they look like the above picture.

  3. Ready

    Ready

    Use a microplane to finely grate over your cheese, sprinkle with the Greek basil and serve immediately.

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Skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage – total comfort food

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage-6

I’m on a bit of a veg kick at the moment, when I’ve got loads of work on I tend to cut out meat, pasta and potatoes as I find it gives me much more energy and focus. Every Sunday, if I’m home, I head to my local car boot sale to buy the week’s veg from Maureen and Bridget. I’ve spoken of these two wonderful ladies quite often on here, they live just over the border in Lincolnshire and Bridget grows the most impressive veg and Maureen is the queen of pies, fruit vinegars and lemon curd.

The weather is dreary and wet today which leaves me craving comfort food. Off I went as usual in the driving rain to get my veg and came back with a mountain for less than £10: purple cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, cavelo nero, green and purple kale, red cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, bunched carrots and tops (the tops make excellent pesto), green tomatoes and a net containing about 12 onions. You can also buy 15kg bags of local spuds for £3, these are vegetables of the highest quality picked just the day before and at a fraction of the cost from any supermarket/greengrocer/market trader.

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than £10

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than £10

My wonderful friend Ben Jackson told me about skirlie early this year when he was round recording Food Friday one morning. His grandmother would make it when roasting a chicken. It took me ages to track down the pinhead oatmeal, I finally stumbled across it in the butchers in Sturminster Newton in Dorset, huzzah! Never one not to make up my own recipe I turned it into a kind of rich oatmeal risotto using chicken fat and stock from the previous day’s roast chicken and instantly fell in love.

Skirlie purists look away now as this is my version and it’s the ultimate comfort food.

chicken fat skirlie

My chicken fat skirlie that made me fall in love with it

Ingredients:

For the skirlie:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 250g pinhead oatmeal (it HAS to be pinhead)
  • 50ml cream sherry
  • hot chicken stock (or veg if you want a veggie version)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder (blitz dried porcini in a coffee grinder)

8 large savoy cabbage leaves

For the béchamel: (approx measures)

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 tsp dried onion granules
  • 1 tsp dried garlic granules
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder
  • few gratings fresh nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 handfuls finely grated strong cheddar cheese

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water, a few at a time to soften them, if the stalk is very thick at the base cut this out. Leave them to cool.
  2. In a saucepan combine the butter, onion and garlic and cook gently just to soften, don’t colour. Add the pinhead oatmeal and stir well to make sure the butter coats everything.
  3. It’s basically like making a risotto now, add the sherry and some hot stock and stir,once that is absorbed add some more stock and repeat until you can drag a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a trail on the bottom. Add the thyme and seasoning and porcini powder, stir well. You want the oatmeal to still have a bit of bite to it rather than be completely soft. Once it reaches that point simply turn off the heat and leave it to cool a bit whilst you make the sauce.
  4. Make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour and stir, cook for a couple of minutes then whisk in the milk, keep stirring and cooking until thickened then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further minute whilst stirring.
  5. To assemble take a cabbage leaf and a big dollop of skirlie and make a little parcel by folding over the top, then tuck in the sides and roll the whole thing up. Put in a roasting tray, repeat with the rest. Spoon over the sauce, grate over some extra cheese then roast until the sauce and cheese starts to turn golden.

Marmite Lamb, Blackberry Beetroot, Lamb and Mint Yorkies and Green sauce

Sundays round my cottage mean one thing: a blissful afternoon in the kitchen – the red wine is open and The West Wing is playing on my laptop. Today was no exception and somewhat more excitingly I had a hunk of salt marsh lamb.

As I was getting a quick olive oil and rosemary marinade together for the lamb, it suddenly occured to me that Marmite would actually be a wonderful addition too, it’s salty umami flavour bringing out the meaty sweetness of the lamb, so in that went too. I can happily report that it was indeed a total triumph and will forever more be included.

I also had a few beetroot to roast too, and as I was washing the dark purple earthy little things, I glanced at my big bottle Bridget’s blackberry vinegar, and just like the marmite, it just made total sense to add bung that in too.

Now when it comes to yorkshire puddings I never just make plain ones, why miss an opportunity to add more flavour? I am a massive fan of Essential Cuisine‘s powdered stocks. Their flavour just can’t be beaten when it comes to bought stock (okay, they are actually better than my homemade ones too, sshhh) and because they are in powdered form they are absolutely brilliant for adding to sauces, batters and just sprinkling over meat and roast potatoes.  When I roast a chicken I use their chicken stock and some chopped sage to boost my yorkies to super sexiness, roast beef gets the veal stock and horseradish sauce treatment and today’s lamb was graced with lamb stock, mint and rosemary.

And what sauce for my meal? Well a quick forage around the herb garden produced a beautiful, vibrant kickass green sauce that made everything just that little bit more awesome, just as a good sauce should.

For the Marmite Lamb:

  • hunk of lamb (mine was a bit of shoulder and it was achingly tender)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon marmite.
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped dried rosemary

Mix the marinade ingredients and cover the lamb, leave for at least an hour then roast in the top of the oven on its highest setting until the fat crisps and browns then move to the shelf below. Roast until the centre of the lamb reaches about 60C then take it out and rest for 15 minutes under foil that’s covered by a tea towel.

For the Blackberry Beetroot:

  • Small beetroot, washed but not peeled
  • big glug of Bridget’s thick blackberry vinegar (if you don’t have a thick syrupy vinegar then use your thin blackberry vinegar plus a big drizzle of balsamic glaze)
  • black pepper
  • sea salt flakes

Put your beetroot in a pot and pour over your vinegar then add your salt and pepper and mix well, leave to marinate for an hour then put them in a roasting tin, cover with foil and put in the top of your oven at its highest setting for an hour. Check them, if they are soft then remove the foil, give them a bit of a mix then roast uncovered to caramelise slightly.

For the Lamb Yorkies: (makes about 16, you can never have too many yorkies)

  • 300ml eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml flour
  • 1 tablespoon Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder
  • chopped fresh mint
  • chopped dried rosemary
  • few grinds black pepper

Just whisk it all together in a big bowl, leave for 30 minutes then whisk again, leave then whisk (thats just how I do it, works for me every time, electric or rotary whisks are perfect). Put a bit of dripping or oil in the bottom of your muffin tin hollows, heat in the oven (at highest setting still) until smoking then quickly pour your mixture in so that it about half fills each muffin hollow then put in the oven until well risen (about 20 minutes).

For the Green Sauce:

  • couple handfuls mixed fresh herbs (fennel fronds, chives, parsley, tarragon, mint)
  • dried chilli flakes (depending on how hot you like it, I like a big pinch)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • big glug extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • Filipino spiced vinegar (distilled white vinegar that has garlic and chillies steeped in it)
  • few grinds black pepper

Just bash it all together using a mortar and pestle and leave to infuse for about an hour.

Oh there was also peas involved but you know what peas look like 🙂