The start of the year is always the longest, leanest time for me. There have been many evenings lately that I have peered into the fridge and wondered what I could cobble together for tea.
A few days ago I picked up some leeks from the greengrocers for not many pence, and being leek fans, I decided to throw together a lovely, comforting cheese leek gratin. It’s remarkably simple and fairly frugal vegetable dish and even my fussy about veg 9 year old asked for seconds!
Cheesy Leek Gratin
Sliced leeks, I used six, but you can use more if you want
A little butter for frying
50g butter or margarine
50g plain flour, or sauce flour if you have it
1 pint of milk (maybe a little more, maybe a little less)
100g mature cheddar cheese
30g Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper and dried chilli flakes
Slice your leeks and fry gently in a bit of butter until they are soft.
Whilst your leeks are softening, melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted, tip in the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Mix until it’s a paste and then cook the flour out for a minute. Add a splash of milk and stir until it turns into a paste again. Keep adding milk in splashes and mixing until it starts to turn into a silky sauce. The amount of milk will vary, but I’d say you need at least a pint of milk. If it looks lumpy and unpromising, just use a whisk until it turns into a lovely smooth sauce.
Grate your cheese and add it to your sauce. Set aside about 30g of the cheese to top your bake with. Stir, stir, stir your sauce and season with salt and pepper. I also like to add ground chilli flakes for a bit of a gentle kick, but you can leave that out if you prefer. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning; if it’s not cheesy enough for you, now is a good time to add more cheese. Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 220°.
Once your leeks are soft and your sauce is cheesy and smooth, tip them both into an ovenproof dish and mix together. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over your reserved cheese. I usually top bakes and gratins with breadcrumbs. It gives a lovely texture and makes it look extra tasty. If I can be bothered I something whizz up some stale bread in the food processor and use that, but I have a tub of ready made breadcrumbs in the cupboard because sometimes life it too short to make your own. I sprinkle whatever I have over the top, use as much or as little as you want.
Put your cheesy leek gratin in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbling beneath. I’ve made this several times now and it’s a regular veg dish as part of a winter roast. It’s great with chicken or sausages, or even on its own with a crusty piece of bread.
If you enjoyed this, you might like my recipe for slow cooker vegetable stew.