Leeks are a bug bear of mine. The problem is, they are so easy to grow, I just can’t resist throwing a few seeds into the vegie patch each autumn. Then, come spring, when they have all grown and are ready for picking on the same day, I have absolutely no idea what to do with them all.
I have tried staggering my planting like all the books advocate but, from my experience, the plants you put in late just catch up to the earlier plants so they still all ripen on the same day.
The other day, I picked eight leeks – you can’t leave them in the ground because the next thing you know, they have all gone to seed. Eight leeks! What was I going to do with eight bloody leeks? I wasn’t going to preserve them as we haven’t used even one jar of the leeks I preserved last year – all the onions are gone so preserving onions is a great idea but as for leeks, like I said, they are the bug bear of my life.
When Maus saw the huge bag in the fridge, she knew for certain it was going to be leeks and not much else for dinner that night.
Off to Eat Your Books I went and typed in “leeks”. I found this recipe, Macedonian leek and walnut rolls, in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. I got pretty excited when I saw that the first ingredient was two bunches of leeks. I had no idea how many leeks were in a “bunch” but it sounded like a lot.
It appears that in the States, they sell leeks by the bunch which, after lots of searching on the net, turns out to be 3 or 4 leeks. My leeks were not the huge ones you see in the supermarkets that look like they have been on steroids. Rather, mine were no more than 1.5 cm in diameter. I decided to err on the side of more, rather than less, and decided a bunch would be four of my leeks.
The recipe says it makes 7 rolls. I made 15 so, maybe, I was a wee bit generous with the leeks but the rolls still tasted great and I was doubly happy because that is 4 meals for Maus and me. I love it when there are prepared meals in the freezer.
The rolls taste so good I even considered forsaking my resolution never to grow leeks again – for very little effort, I can make four very tasty meals for two people that cost very little.
- 2 bunches of leeks (6-8 home grown leeks or, probably, 3 of the monster ones you see in the supermarket)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt and black pepper
- 2 cups mixed fresh cheeses (cottage, ricotta or similar)
- 1 cup of Pecorino, Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
- 1½ cups chopped walnuts (I threw mine into the food processor and pulsed them a few times)
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- Filo pastry (How much you need depends on how many rolls you make. The recipe calls for 14 sheets – I used 30!)
- Butter for brushing the filo pastry
- Trim the leeks, quarter each leek lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½ centimetre pieces. Use only the white and pale green parts.
- Wash the leeks thoroughly and let drain.
- Heat the oil in a pan, add the leeks and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, covered, for 5 minutes or until wilted. Set aside to cool.
- Working in small batches, wrap the cooked leeks in a clean cloth and squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible.
- In a large bowl, combine the squeezed leeks, cheeses, nuts and mint. Add salt and black pepper to taste and mix well with your hands.
- Preheat your oven to 200°C.
- Melt some butter.
- Butter a shallow 9 inch (22 cm) baking pan.
- Butter one sheet of filo pastry (have the short end facing you).
- Place another sheet on top and butter that sheet.
- Place a very generous ½ cup of filling about 2½ cm from the bottom (short end) of the filo and leave about 2 cm on each side. Shape the filling into a log. Roll the pastry over the filling once, then fold in the sides of the pastry, brush the sides with butter and roll up.
- Place the roll into the baking pan (seam side down) and brush with butter.
- Repeat until all the filling is used. Place the rolls side by side in the pan – prick each three or four times with a skewer.
- Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 175°C and continue baking until golden brown and crisp – I found it took another 20 minutes.
- Cut each roll into slices and serve.