I like this family friendly, thrifty, and easy to make dish. There are a few, simple ingredients and you may have most of them already. It is much better with fresh thyme but you could use dried. Unfortunately this quickly loses it’s flavour as you only use a little at a time and the little jars can be hanging around in the kitchen for…a very long time!. Try growing your own. Thyme, like lots of herbs from warmer climes such as rosemary and sage ( I feel I should burst into song at this point), are very happy in pots. Buy small plants from a garden centre, which are cheap in summer, add some extra grit to make the compost free draining and site your pot in a sunny place-not too far from your door. Now you can pick as much as you need -fresh herbs make all the difference to your cooking.
I digress……the leeks, cooked slowly, go nice and creamy, make sure you keep stirring as leeks burn easily. I always make a white sauce in the microwave, I can hear ‘proper’ chefs tut, tutting but i find it a palaver making a proper roux with flour and butter etc etc. Not to mention the possible lumpiness, this way is so much easier and with the addition of some butter at the end I certainly can’t tell the difference. Add the cooked leeks and cheese and top with the breadcrumbs, thyme and grated lemon. I make the breadcrumbs from left over crusts of bread, if you have some and don’t want to use them straight away they freeze well.
Try this on a ‘Meat Free Monday’ – I’m sure you will want to make it any day of the week.
LEEKS WITH A LEMON & THYME CRUST
Pre-heat oven to 200C/gas 4
3 or 4 leeks
1 ½ tbsp. corn flour
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
2 tbsp. grated Gruyere/other cheese i.e. Emmental, cheddar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 handfuls of fresh bread crumbs (about 4 slices)
Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of one lemon
Small bunch of thyme leaves removed
- Cut up leeks quite small. Sweat until soft in vegetable oil. Make sure the mix is quite ‘dry’.
- Make a quick microwave white sauce:
1 ½ tbsp. corn flour
In a plastic jug mix the corn flour with a little of the milk and stir until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until there are no lumps. Microwave for about 3 mins, stir again and then for 2 minutes. Add cheese and stir until melted. Season well and add a knob of butter if you want. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick-but it will thicken up in the oven.
- Put the cooked leeks in oven proof dish. Cover with the sauce.
- Mix the breadcrumbs, grated lemon rind, juice and thyme. Cover the leeks mix with the crumbs.
- Bake for about 20 minute in a hot oven until top is crispy and golden.