Butter braised leeks with pan - popped corn, white wine, grain mustard and walnuts
I love leeks vinaigrette, a classic French salad, served warm, the mustard whisked to a luscious but light dressing. My mother made them, week in, week out for as long as they were in the shops, which was most of the time. Funnily enough they are hard to find (I suppose hard to grow) in Australia, where I spend half the year (though post lockdown, we’ll see about that) and when they do appear, they are more expensive than asparagus, more expensive than most things actually and sold individually, those stupid little sticky labels on each.
Saturday lunch at my mother’s table was always an array of salads, to precede the stupendous meal to come. These days the salads do me just fine. It’s just that I beef them up a bit, haha. But talking of which, you can add mightily photogenic, completely spot - hitting poached eggs on top, or stickily, sesame seed encrusted, butter, soya glazed tofu etc etc. Even, heaven help you, a piece of gently poached white fish or tender, flashed in the pan chicken breast. In other words, as in most of my cooking, what was once side dish is turned into main, if not feast.
The chilli is only optional because I live in Paris and honestly it’s easier to run a half marathon than it is to find them.
Serves 2 – 4
4 whole leeks, both cut in 2 and split in half down the middle
1 clove garlic
1 tbs grain mustard
2 tbs butter
100ml liquid, made up of half white wine and half veggie stock
1 corn on the cob, kernels sliced off
1 tbs olive oil
1 small, ripe, very red tomato, chopped
A fistful of parsley and chives, chopped
1 long red chilli, seeds removed, very finely chopped
2 – 4 walnuts, broken up
Salt and pepper
Put the butter in a large frying pan and when it’s hot and just beginning to foam, add the sliced leeks, cut side down.
Season with salt and pepper and sauté gently for about 15 – 20 minutes, till gently browned but very tender. Turn them over regularly, so they don’t burn.
Now stir through the grain mustard and add the stock and white wine, a spoonful at a time and continue to simmer till stock and buttery juices coalesce into shimmering sauce and the leeks are very soft.
If you are happy to work on two pans at the same time, you can meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a second frying pan and when it's hot, sauté the corn kernels till they pop, brown and burst, turning crisper and stickier moment by moment.
When cooked, stir in the herbs.
Transfer the leeks to a large plate and tip the corn all over.
Finally, scatter the chopped tomato, chopped walnuts and chopped chilli on top and serve.