leeks bread cheese
In these quiet winter months it is harder to find inspiration for recipes that are based on fresh, local ingredients. However, in Oxford there's a delightful store called 2 North Parade (cunningly located at 2 North Parade Avenue) which sources the finest local foods. You can see more about the store at www.2northparade.com
Last week I took a short trip with Peter Slade from 2NP to visit North Aston Organics and North Aston Dairy. Even in winter, the fields are green with leeks and this seemed a perfect chance to tell something of the story of how the ingredients are sourced and the basic steps to create a most tasty winter dish. One that's been simply called "leeks, bread and cheese".
It's impossible to get fresher vegetables than those that have been dug out of the ground while you watch. (Holding a camera makes giving a hand with a shovel a touch tricky). I'm grateful to Mark Stay from North Aston Organics for the chance to see up close where these winter vegetables are sourced for 2 North Parade.
With many more leeks than the 2 needed for the recipe at hand, the next stop was North Aston Dairy, the supplier of organic milk and yoghurt for 2 North Parade. I needed some milk to make a cheese sauce, and no better place to collect of from then a dairy where 16 dairy cows each have a name and are cared for to the highest standards. Next time I'll be sure to take a photo of the newest calf who was named "Pussy Riot" as the markings on her face resemble a balaklava. Politics and intrigue at a local dairy farm...
With these ingredients at hand, it's back to 2 North Parade to collect the bread and cheese.
The bread for this winter dish is sourced from Oxfordshire's Natural Bread Company, and is a wonderful, robust sourdough. (naturalbreadcompany.co.uk).
Back at home the fragrance of the leeks fresh from the farm, the sourdough bread and the Montgomery farmhouse cheddar from Somerset fills the kitchen.
The next steps are straight forward, and the impact of the dish depends upon the fresh quality of ingredients being used. Simply slice the bread, wash and chop the leeks, and prepare a cheese sauce using 1/2 litres of milk, some flour and butter. Add the grated cheese and the leeks, that have been sautéed and then sweated in a covered pan with butter for about 10 minutes.
Take this leek and cheese sauce mixture, and spoon generously over the sliced sourdough bread. Add salt and pepper to taste, and if you want to bring out the earthy freshness of the leeks even more, dab some dijon mustard to the toasted bread before adding the sauce. Then grate on a bit more cheese and put under a hot grill for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted to a golden brown. Then, well, all that's left is to eat and enjoy.