If you're lucky enough to have a garden, you may be fortunate enough to pull a couple of fat leeks out of the ground for this delicious recipe, as they're in peak condition at this time of year. If not, you'll just have to rely on the local bearded grocer like me.
It goes very well with roast pork and crackling as I knocked up for a meal last Sunday, with apple sauce, steamed kale, roast spuds and other trimmings. In fact, it's not often that a side dish takes centre stage, but it certainly gave the pork leg a run for its money, and if anything was almost as popular as the crackling. It doesn't require a lot of cheese, but the cheddar you use should be as full-flavoured and vintage as you can find.
2 large leeks
25g plain white flour
2 tsps wholegrain mustard
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and white pepper
3 tbsps breadcrumbs
50g vintage cheddar, grated
25g parmesan, grated
2 tsps fish sauce
Cut the leeks lengthways into four (keeping them attached at the root) then wash well in a tub of water to remove any grit and mud. Slice the leeks into inch-wide pieces. Boil 250ml of water in a saucepan, add a little salt, and then the leeks.
Stir well, then cover the pot over a medium heat for 30 seconds. Stir again, then cover for another 30 seconds. Do this for a total of five minutes - the leeks should have reduced in size by about a half. Remove the leeks and remaining water (which will have turned a pale green).
In the same (dry) pan, melt the butter and then add the flour. Take off the heat, and stir well with a wooden spoon to make a blonde paste (roux). Return to the heat and add the still-hot liquor from the leeks. Once the water is absorbed, add the milk, a little at a time, using a whisk to break down the lumps.
Once you have a thick sauce, add the mustard and fish sauce. Then add the grated cheese, stirring until you have a smooth sauce again. Check the seasoning, adding salt and white pepper to taste.
Add the leeks to the sauce and simmer for two minutes. Transfer to an oven dish, top with breadcrumbs and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, then cook in a pre-heated oven at 170C for 20-30 minutes until the top if golden.