Leeks are related to garlic, onions, shallots and scallions. They look like large scallions. They have a small bulb and a long, white cylindrical stalk of superimposed layers that flow into green, tightly wrapped, Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green leaves and white necks.

Good quality leeks will not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Since overly large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture, purchase only those that have a diameter of one and one-half inches or less. Before preparing leeks, clean them thoroughly to remove any soil that may have got caught within the overlapping layers.

Leeks are a good source of manganese, vitamin C and iron. Since leeks are related to garlic and onion, they contain many of the same beneficial compounds found in these vegetables. A high intake of these vegetables helps reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels while, at the same time, raising HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.

Now, for a recipe.

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

Butter: 30 gm

Leeks, sliced: 2

Onion, finely chopped: 1, medium size

Garlic, crushed: 2 cloves

Potatoes, peeled and cut into small and equal size cubes: 500 gm

Vegetable stock: 3 cups

Cream: 150 ml

Method: Melt the butter and sauté the leeks, onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for an extra five minutes. Add the stock and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender. Puree the mixture. Return to heat and add milk, salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and serve hot.

BHOLANATH JHA, Chef de Partie, Taj Connemara

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