Nutritionist Lucy Hyland

Cooking with Leeks

November 10, 2009
Posted by Lucy

Ok... ok...

Last week I got so excited about all the research into broccoli that I think I may have overwhelmed you slightly. I just can't help it. I see these common vegetables, sitting on farmers market stalls or in the supermarket, and they don't have packets on them. This means no health claims, no added anything, no enriched anything. Just basic food bursting with nutrients and flavour. So I've had a bit of a word with myself and this week, I'm going to be sharp and snappy.. as we'd rather be in the kitchen cooking this that spending all day reading about it!! Earlier today I was chatting to my vegetable supplier (Ballintubber Farm in East Cork - great vegetables!!) and he was telling me that the fields are bursting with leeks....

StarHealthy Eating with Leeks

Leeks are the part of Allium family, which also contains onions, shallots and scallions (but I think leeks are a little more delicate in flavour). All these vegetables share many health promoting properties and should be part of any healthy eating plan.

LeeksWhen selecting leeks try to go for ones that are firm and straight with dark green leaves and long white necks. Avoid leeks that are yellow, wilted, have bulbs or are overly large.

When storing leeks, keep in the fridge with a plastic bag wrapped tightly around them. What I tend to do it cut off the green tops as I rarely use these unless I'm making a stock, and then you can fit the plastic bag around them.

A great tip for cleaning leeks is cut once or twice lengthwise (not all the way up to the top), fan out the leeks and place under running water - only wash just before you are going to use them.

When cooking leeks, I simply slice them thinly, throw them into the pot with a little water and let them cook away for 5-10 mins. Flavours that go well with leeks are nutmeg, mustard, dill and chives.

In terms of health, leeks are a good source of manganese (needed for healthy skin, bones and cartilage and more importantly needed to activate SOD, the most powerful of anti-oxidants), Vitamin C (boost that immune system!!), B6, folate and iron.

Even better, leeks have sulphur containing phytonutrients (these seem to be coming up alot, don't they!)As they are part of the Allium family, they share with garlic and onion the fact that they have been linked with increased heart health, lowering high blood pressure and stabilising blood sugar levels (remember that from last week?).

Recipes

This week I'm doing a twist on a traditional soup - I think my one is tastier and great for healthy eating - and an interesting dish for you try. I'm always trying to introduce new ingredients so that you can start stocking your fridge with a variety of flavours and tastes. I hope your fridges and cupboards are starting to look healthy and full!

Healthy Eating recipes: Sweet potato and potato leek soup

Sweet potato, potato and leek soupThis soup is one of my winter favourites. I use sweet potato as well to top up the antioxidants to protect me from winter colds. I actually use mung beans in this recipe but use any bean you want. Of all the beans, I find mung beans cook the quickest and if I'm in a hurry, I simply thrown them in some boiling water and cook for about half an hour and they are done. Otherwise, simply get tinned. A little tip to remember with soup is that you always add boiling water and not cold water.

1 onion finely chopped
2 medium leeks - sliced
1 medium sized potato
1 medium sized sweet potato
1 tin of mung beans (or any beans you like)
1 cloves of garlic
1 inch fresh ginger
1 dessert spoon of wholegrain mustard
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Juice of a small lemon or half a big lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
Start by adding the onions to a large saucepan and throw in a little water. Put on a medium heat. While the onions are sweating, slice the leeks and dice the normal and sweet pototoes into 1/2 inch squares (or near this size!!).
Leave onions for 5-10 mins to soften and then add the sliced leeks and add a little more water if necessary.
Sweat for a few mins and add the sweet and normal potato.
Next add the mustard, the lemon juice , garlic, ginger and the nutmeg.
Pour in 2 pints of boiling water and stir well. Bring to boil and then bring down to a simmer for about 20 mins. Drain and wash off the tin of beans and add to soup.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a little chopped parsley.

Healthy Fish recipes: Mackerel with leek and parsley sauce

This is such an easy recipe and you can make this with any fish, I just happened to have some mackerel left over in my freezer and needed to use this up. Mackerel is an oily fish which means it is packed full of Omega 3 oils so perfect for healthy eating. I use tahini in this recipe which is a great addition to your fridge. Its used as a base for hummus but I find it lovely as a salad dressing or to cream up a sauce (like here). Definitely one to stock!

4 small leeks
4 tablespoon(tbsp) tahini
8 tbsp of water
4 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint (only if you have it)
4 mackerel fillets or fish pieces of our choice
salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre heat oven to 180oc.
Finely chop the leeks and toss into a saucepan with a little water.
Saute them until they are nice and soft - about 10 mins.
Take off heat and stir in the tahini and the water, then add the parsley and mint and mix well - if it looks curdled, simply mix a little more.
Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed (I find it needs a little pepper)
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the mackerel fillets on the over tray and cover in the mixture, placing them in the oven for 10-15 mins. Check to see if they are done by looking at the flesh of the fish and ensuring that it is white and not translucent.
Serve with some lovely steamed broccoli and brown rice.

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