Growing up, one of my favourite Sunday lunch accompaniments was ‘leek sauce’: leeks softened in butter and combined with a milky white sauce. They were soft and sloppy but so comforting on a wet British weekend, and particularly good with lamb. But it was also quite heavy. I now do something slightly different by adding a few tablespoons of crème fraîche and blue cheese to the pan; it’s a much quicker and sharper sauce than a classic bechamel.
This is an excellent side dish for roast and grilled meats, smoked haddock or baked mushrooms. If a cheese sauce doesn’t seem right for your meal, but leeks do (alongside most fish, for example), just ignore the blue cheese and crème fraîche – sautéed leeks are an excellent simple side in their own right.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 kg leeks, trimmed
- 40 g butter
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 75 g blue cheese, such as Stilton, Danish Blue or Bleu d’Auvergne
- 150 g crème fraîche
- 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cut the leeks on an angle into pieces about 3 cm long. Wash them thoroughly to remove any mud or grit. Set a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or frying pan with a lid over a medium heat, add the butter and, once it has mostly melted, the still-wet leeks, along with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and cook gently for 2 more minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook very gently until softened and sweetened for 8–10 minutes, lifting the lid to stir only after 6 minutes, and just a couple of times after that. The leeks are ready when tender and sweet; avoid cooking them for so long they turn to a dull, stringy mush.
- If not using the crème fraîche and blue cheese, season the leeks with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and serve. Those aiming for something more decadent need simply crumble in the blue cheese, add the crème fraîche and mustard, stir and cook very gently for 1–2 minutes, no more. Season with the lemon juice and a grind or two of black pepper. Taste. The blue cheese will be salty, but add more salt if you think it’s required.