A member of the onion family, the leek is a versatile spring vegetable that, chopped and combined with carrot, celery and onion, makes a great base for soups or stews. Its mild, sweet flavour also partners well with butter and cream in sauces, soufflés and gratins.
Leeks should have dark-green leaves and fresh-looking roots. Choose firm bulbs with even-coloured skins.
Only the white part of leeks is cooked: trim away the tough, woody stalk end and use the green leaves to wrap the contents of a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs added to soups, stews and stocks to add flavour and removed before serving). Clean leeks thoroughly before cooking by separating the leaves and rinsing them under cold running water.
Make leeks the star of the show by whizzing up the traditional chilled soup, Vichyssoise. Alternatively, top hot leek and potato soup with deep-fried oysters for a dramatic finish. Baby leeks make a pretty side dish steamed or griddled whole.