Leeks with balsamic, crumbs and Parmesan

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This is a star-turn for summer leeks, which are smaller and more delicately flavoured than their winter versions, sweeter and without the sharpness of their close relatives, garlic and spring onions (scallions).

Treated this way – seared in butter then left to braise, followed by a quick blast under the grill with a scattering of balsamic vinegar, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese – leeks reveal their mellow flavour and melting texture to the fullest. They are a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken or barbecued fish. Paired with good bread and maybe topped with a softly poached egg, they make for a lovely weekend lunch.

Leeks are grown by covering the young shoots with a mound of soil, which turns them white before the upper leaves push through and turn green. As a result, there is always grit inside the pale and dark green sections of a mature leek, so pay special attention when washing them. After cutting lengthways, fan the top leaves apart under cold running water to get them completely clean.


Leeks with balsamic, crumbs and Parmesan

 

2 leeks
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
½ cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs or panko
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
fresh;y ground black pepper

Using the white and pale green parts, cut the leeks into 10cm (4 inch) logs, then slice each piece in half lengthways.

Melt the butter in a roomy pan over medium heat. Put the leeks in, cut side down, and cook for about 4 minutes. Turn them over gently and cook for another 4 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and pour in the stock. Let it come to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender. If necessary, turn the heat to high to bubble away the last of the liquid. Meanwhile, heat your grill (broiler).

Uncover the leeks and sprinkle over the balsamic vinegar, breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Slide under the grill until the cheese has melted, which will be happen within a few seconds.