Cheesy leeks are great as a side dish for roast chicken – especially if you are serving vegetarians as well as meat eaters. This recipe makes enough for a generous supper for two or a vegetable accompaniment for four.
- 4 slender leeks (around 575g/1lb 4½oz total weight), trimmed
- 20g/¾oz butter, plus extra for greasing
- 20g/¾oz plain flour
- 200ml/7fl oz milk, semi-skimmed or full-fat
- 1 tsp English or Dijon mustard
- 100g/3½oz mature cheddar cheese, or other cheese, finely grated
- 2 tbsp dried white breadcrumbs (ideally panko breadcrumbs), optional
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7. Lightly butter a shallow baking dish. (It will need to hold around 1 litre/1¾ pint.)
A third-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Remove any tough or damaged leaves from the outside of the leeks if not already done. Trim the leeks, leaving all of the white part and some of the green.
Cut the leeks into roughly 3cm/1¼in pieces and add to the water. Return to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, or until the leeks are tender. They are ready when the tip of a knife slides in easily. Drain in a colander over a large mixing bowl to reserve the cooking water.
To make the sauce, return the empty pan to the heat, add the butter and melt gently. Stir in the flour and cook for 10–15 seconds stirring. Gradually add the milk and then a ladleful (around 100ml/3½fl oz) of the reserved cooking liquid, stirring or whisking well between each addition to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
Add the mustard, half the cheese and season generously with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 1–2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Scatter the leeks into the baking dish and pour the sauce on top. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, if using, and sprinkle on top. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.
You can save a little time by grilling the cheesy leeks instead of baking, if you like. Warm the baking dish before adding the leeks and sauce.
The basic leek and cheese sauce can also be used as a filling for jacket potatoes or stirred through freshly cooked pasta, topped with sliced tomatoes and grilled until golden.