Photo credit Alex J Harris
I saw a recipe similar to this in BBC Good Food’s Christmas Vegetarian issue and could not resist trying it. We love leeks, and they really are much easier to prepare than many people think.
Good Food’s recipe was presented as a vegetarian main course for one, so I increased the quantities to serve 2 or 3 and got a bit more imaginative with the filling (the original main ingredients were simply couscous and leek). The recipe did suggest that you might be able to push the middle of the leek out and stuff it without making a vertical cut in the leek, but one attempt at this convinced me that life is definitely too short! Making and a vertical cut down the length of each leek makes this dish much easier to prepare and when the dish is cooked you honestly can’t see how you stuffed them.
This time of year, the outer leaves of the leeks can be quite tough, so I recommend you remove the outer two or three layers. I didn’t do this the first time round, and I had to use a steak knife to cut into the leeks! Subsequent versions of the recipe were much more tender with the outer layers removed.
Adapted from BBC Good Food Christmas Vegetarian December 2011
3 to 4 large fat leeks, trimmed and washed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped mushrooms (about two large mushrooms)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small clove garlic
2 tablespoons white wine
¼ cup couscous
¼ cup vegetable stock
½ teaspoon dried oregano
a pinch or two of freshly ground pepper
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetarian Parmesan style cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons double (heavy) cream
Preheat the oven to 400 F or 200 C.
Wash the outside of the leeks, remove the very bottom and cut the dark green part off the tops. Make a vertical cut halfway through each leek from top to bottom. Rinse between the layers, but keep the leek together. Drain slightly and pat dry.
Discard the two or three tough outer layers of the leek, leaving enough layers to stuff. Remove the very centre layers of the leek, leaving a good few layers to make the outer tube. Finely chop the inner layers of the leek.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) or 375ºF or 180ºC for a fan oven.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan with a lid over medium heat.
Add the finely chopped inner layers of the leek to the pan together with the chopped red pepper and mushrooms. Sauté gently for about 10 minutes until everything is nice and soft.
Add the garlic, oregano, pepper and the wine and cook for one minute more. Stir in the couscous and the stock, remove from the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for five minutes.
Fork through the couscous and vegetable mixture. Still using a fork, stir in the 2 tablespoons of cream and the one tablespoon of the parmesan style cheese. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more pepper if necessary.
Carefully open the whole leeks and stuff them with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling. Shape the outer layers back around the stuffing tightly. Cut each leek in half and place in a large casserole dish. Fit the leeks in snugly, so they help hold each other together.
Pour the ¼ cup cream over top of the leeks and sprinkle the ¼ cup Parmesan style cheese over the top. Bake the leeks for 25 to 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender and the sauce is bubbling.
Serve with a lightly dressed salad and warm rolls.