Sunday, 14 December 2008

A good, cheap starter

Funny how things go out of fashion. When I was young almost any restaurant you went to served a selection of hors d'oeuvres (literally 'out of the work' or in other words an addition to the main course). It was a way of extending and reducing the cost of the meal and using up leftovers and very tasty it could be too. You can still find similar dishes in France and Italy but rarely in England.

It's a tradition that deserves to be resurrected because it's a cheap way to entertain. Today we laid on three dishes for friends as a starter - just-cooked leeks dressed with a sharp vinaigrette, topped with chopped hard-boiled egg, a beetroot and yoghurt salad with dill and a Moroccan(ish) carrot salad with an orange dressing. My husband made the last two so I can't tell you what was in them (nor, almost certainly, could he - he's a great one for a pinch of this and a pinch of that) but here's the leek recipe, which is adapted from A Taste of Somerset by Andrea Leeman. All would be good for Christmas entertaining.

Leeks vinaigrette with chopped eggs and parsley
Serves 4-6
4-6 leeks, depending on size
1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Trim the ends and tops off the leeks, leaving some green. Cut lengthwise two thirds of the way down the middle and rinse thoroughly between the leaves. Cut into even-sized lengths (about 4-5 cm long) cutting the larger leeks in half. Put in a large shallow pan and pour just enough boiling water to cover the leeks. Bring back to the boil, cover and cook until the leeks are tender (about 3-4 minutes) Transfer to a colander with a slotted spoon or spatula and rinse with cold water. Leave to get completely cold. Whisk the vinegar with the salt, sugar and pepper and gradually whisk in the oil. Gently squeeze any excess liquid out of the leeks, arrange in a serving dish and spoon over most of the dressing. Arrange the chopped egg in lines down the dish (see pic) or simply scatter it over the leeks and sprinkle over the parsley. Spoon over the remaining dressing and serve.


Angie said...

Sounds great. The only thing is, here in Western Australia, leeks (believe it or not) are very expensive!

Angie said...

BTW - the mention of Carrot Salad reminded me of this:

Nans Carrot Salad

2lbs carrots – sliced – par boiled
½ cup green capsicum
1 white onion – diced
16oz can tomato soup
1 cup diced celery
½ cup raw sugar
½ cup salad oil
¾ cup vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
mint and/or parsley

Mix all ingredients while carrots cook.
Add drained carrots & marinade for 24hrs.
Keeps in frig for up to 3 weeks.

Fiona Beckett said...

Well you could make it with asparagus Angie if that's cheaper (though it wouldn't be here!) And many thanks for the intriguing recipe. It almost sounds more like a pickle than a salad. Very tasty with the Boxing Day leftovers I would have thought!