LEEKS IN BEURRE NOISETTE | Who would have thought leeks could taste so incredible?
I don’t eat leeks often but having returned from Singapore recently earlier this year, I was inspired by the critically acclaimed restaurant Burnt Ends (nb: book early) to recreate their signature leek dish with browned butter and hazelnuts.
First, let’s delve into a little short history about this amazing vegetable that belongs in the Allium family.
Leeks have been cultivated since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and were probably part of the diet of those who built the pyramids. Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician and ‘father of medicine’ prescribed the leek as a cure for nosebleeds.
The Romans considered the leek a superior vegetable and Emperor Nero got through so many he gained the nickname Porophagus (leek eater); he is reported to have thought that eating leeks would improve his singing voice!
The leek is also associated with the Welsh Saint David. During the Middle Ages when Saint David was alive the leek was seen as a healthy and virtuous plant. Extraordinary qualities were claimed for it. It was the original health food, high in fibre, good for purging the blood, keeping colds at bay and healing wounds.
The leek also acquired mystical virtues. For single young ladies curious to foretell the future ‘man of their dreams’, mystic belief has it that girls who sleep with leeks under their pillow on St David’s Day would see their future husband in their dreams.
What’s more, the humble leek is also mentioned in the Bible. The book of Numbers records how after leaving Egypt, the children of Israel missed a range of foods including leeks.
The leek in Hebrew is called Karti, which is a pun on another Hebrew word yikartu meaning ‘to be cut off’. Thus the Jews eat leeks at Rosh Hashanah to symbolise a wish for their enemies ‘to be cut off’.
So enough about leek history. Let’s get down to recreating this simple yet beautifully eloquent dish that will surely impress your guests (well, it surely did blow them away at my last supper club).
Leeks with Beurre Noisette and Hazelnuts
PREP TIME: 10 mins | ACTIVE TIME: 10 mins | TOTAL TIME: 20 mins | SERVES: 3
- 3 leeks, washed
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts (roughly about 10)
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- Pinch of premium sea salt flakes or gourmet salt of your liking (I used Pukara’s smoked salt with olives here to add the last delicate ‘kick’ in flavor).
- Wash leeks and trim stems.Slice each leek in half. If long, cut the leeks in half horizontally.
- Heat a griddle (I used a cast iron griddle pan) on high. Brush oil with a high smoke point (grapeseed perhaps) onto the pan. Once smoking, throw the leeks onto the pan and grill for 4 minutes each side till the gorgeous grilled char marks form. Sprinkle some salt as you grill the leeks.
- Lightly crush the hazelnuts in a mortar and pestle (or feel free to leave them in their entirety).
- In the meantime, as the leeks are cooking, heat another small pan on medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the crushed hazelnuts (optional to slightly crush them in a mortar and pestle or leave them in their entirety).
- Once the butter turns a caramelised brown, turn off the heat (roughly 8-10 minutes).
- By now both your leeks and beurre noisette should be done. Dish the leeks up and arrange uniformly on a cleaned plate. Immediately, pour the browned butter with hazelnuts on top. For the finishing touch, sprinkle with a touch of gourmet salt (I used Pukara’s smoked salt with olives). Serve whilst warm.