The leek is a member of the onion family of plants. Its origins are obscure but it is known to have been cultivated in ancient Egypt, and in classical Rome it was considered to have special properties which improved the timbre of the voice.
There are many varieties of leek avail-able today, ranging from the very large, dark green slightly bulbous type common in Great Britain to the more delicate, paler and smaller variety popular on the Continent.
When buying leeks, it is important to remember that size can often be a guide to tenderness – the smaller the leek the more tender it is likely to be. The larger, tougher leeks are more generally used as an ingredient in soups and stews while the smaller ones make excellent vegetable accompaniments to meats or fish, or delicate hors d’oeuvrc dishes.
Approximately 8 ounces of leeks per person should be allowed if you are serving leeks as a vegetable accompaniment or hors d’oeuvre.
To prepare leeks for cooking, cut off the roots and remove the tops to within about 3 inches of the white stem. Remove the coarse outer leaves. Wash the leeks very carefully under cold running water, cutting or splitting them lengthwise to within about an inch of the base in order to remove any grit between the layers.
To cook leeks, half fill a large saucepan
Leeks in Bechamel Sauce, topped with cheese, tastes delicious with meat. with water and add
1 teaspoon of salt. Place the pan over moderately high heat and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the leeks, either whole if they are small or cut into
3-inch lengths if they are larger, and cook for
12 minutes, or until they are just tender. Remove the pan from the heat and drain the leeks in a colander.