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Olive Oil Braised Leeks with Butterbeans and Sizzled Mint 

by our lovely guest blogger Anna Shepherd, author of Love Vegetables 

Cooking the leeks slowly in grassy Honest Toil extra virgin olive oil and aromatics like this only intensifies their mellow sweetness, and turns their fibrous layers meltingly tender and almost creamy. Braising them in oil does take a little time, but once cooked, they can be covered and kept for up to 5 days in the fridge before finishing everything else off. Any extra oil is infused with buttery sweetness from the leeks and can be used to roast tomatoes, or dress salads. 


Timings: 1 ½ hours 

Serves 4

For the leeks 

4 slim leeks (about 750g/ 1 ½ lb in total), outer leaves removed and white and light green stalk cut into 2cm rounds (save the dark green parts for stock) 

1 red chilli, scored with a sharp knife 

5 sprigs tarragon 

6 pink peppercorns 

4 bay leaves 

350ml / 12 oz Honest Toil extra virgin olive oil 

1 unwaxed lemon 

Salt and pepper

For the beans 

Leaves from ½ small bunch mint (about 30 leaves), picked 

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced 

2 bay leaves

1 lemon 

1 x 700g / 1 ½ lb jar of butter beans in brine, drained 

75g/ 2 ½ oz fresh goats cheese

Optional: crusty bread, such as baguette, to serve 

Check for any grit in the leeks as you trim them. If they’re particularly grubby (some vegbox leeks are literally teeming with life), place the rounds in a bowl of cold water, with plenty of room to swill around. After half an hour any grit and grubs should fall to the base of the bowl. 

Pat the leeks dry with a clean dishcloth, then nestle the rounds tightly, cut side up, in a 25cm saute pan. Pack the chilli, herbs and spices around the leeks and peel the skin away from the lemon and tuck amongst the leek rounds. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the leeks, catching any bitter seeds. Pour over the oil and 100ml water and sprinkle over 2 teaspoons of salt. Cut a piece of parchment that will fit tightly inside the pan to cover the leeks and place over the leek and oil mixture. Cover the pan with a lid if you have one, or tightly with tin foil. Cook over a low heat, checking after 10 minutes to see whether the oil is bubbling (if not, increase the heat until it does) . Continue to cook gently for 1 hour - 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the leeks are meltingly tender to the point of a sharp knife. 

The leeks can be made up to 5 days in advance and transferred, oil, aromatic additions and all, to a container with a lid once cool, and kept covered in the fridge until ready to use. 

25 minutes before you want to serve, lay a piece of kitchen paper over a cooling rack. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the oil from the leeks in a medium saute pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil forms ripples in the pan, add the mint leaves which will sizzle straight away, and cook for about 90 seconds, stirring with a slotted spatula, so that the leaves don’t clump together. When the leaves look translucent and brittle and the sizzle has died down completely, they’re done. Lift onto the prepared rack with the slotted spatula while you cook the rest. 

Still using the same pan, pour in a couple of tablespoons more of the leek oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and bay, then pour in the beans and all of their liquid and squeeze in the lemon juice. Season well with pepper, and taste to check for your preferred salt level (jarred beans tend to be saltier than tinned). Cook for 15 minutes before lifting the leeks out of their oil with a slotted spoon, and stirring through the bean mixture. Cook the leeks and beans together for 10 minutes gently until the leeks are warmed through, then transfer to a platter and top with the mint and crumbled goats cheese. Any extra oil can be kept stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a month and can be used to dress salads, or whizzed into mayonnaise.

Serve the leeks with crusty bread if you’re very hungry. 

Variations: If you can find them in season, Catalan Calçots can be used instead of leeks, and cooked in the same way. 

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