The most fragrant of all vegetables, the leek is the prince of the onion family and the national emblem of Wales.
Leeks were grown in ancient Egypt and mentioned in a Chinese food guide 3500 years ago. The emperor Nero dined on leek soup, believing it would strengthen his voice for orations. Superstition? I don't know. Ask Tom Jones, Sir Harry Secombe, Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Terfel, Geraint Evans, and the Male Welsh Choir.
The following recipe alone shoots leek into the top ten vegetables of all time, but that's just one. Then you have leek terrines, leek tarts, leek pie, leeks with pasta (or with mushrooms and gorgonzola - totally delicious), and leek omelette, or as it is sometimes more pretentiously known, leek frittata. (The only difference as I understand it is that with a frittata you mix the ingredients through the eggs before cooking; whereas with an omelette you dump the extras on to the eggs in the cooking pan. Big deal.)
Leek and Potato Soup
Leeks and potatoes are often pureed into a smooth soup, but I find pureed soups as monotonous as hospital food.
My version should really be called a stew. It turns the same ingredients into a satisfying main course meal with discrete pieces. If we are still calling it a soup, it is probably the most appetite-satisfying in existence; its chunky ingredients, dairy-filled goodness and house-filling aroma making it the king of soups.
Cut three rashers of bacon into small squares. Fry in olive oil until almost crisp but not quite.
Cut two large leeks into thin rounds, rinsing those towards the green end for grit. Add to pot with a knob of butter. Stir while the leeks soften.
Peel and chop three large potatoes into cubes. Add to pot. Add enough chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables. Cook long enough to soften the vegetables and reduce the fluid.
Before serving, add a cup or two of milk and plenty of white pepper, and reheat gently. Ladle into large bowls. Top with a small mountain of grated cheddar and sprinkle with chopped parsley.