I have been guilty of throwing out the green parts of leek and even the fronds of fennel. They’re both totally edible of course, but they’re usually the first things to go limp and sad looking. I suppose they aren’t the easiest ingredients to cook with either. So I enveloped them in fluffy, lightly buttered and cheesed potato, then pan fried globs until brown. I was really surprised how much I liked them – the fennel fronds lose the aggro aniseed flavour and become warming and tastebud comforting. Well, my tastebuds were comforted anyway. You could always have this as a textured mash as well (sans egg), or top pies with it, or mix it into cornish pastie filling…you get the idea. Of course you can also use the white bits of the leek and fennel too, but I’d caramelise the white bits with the leeks.
To make this into a full meal I seared/steamed some market asparagus and browned some formerly-white button mushrooms, then drizzled it all in a gloriously lemony chive dressing. I am rejoicing now that asparagus is not $5 a handful! I got a hefty bag for $5 at the market, but I’d advise getting there early! Feeling a bit luxurious I also used the last of my chevre from Med Foods. If you’re feeling poor you could use whatever creamy feta you find or just go without – this is plenty tangy with the dressing! Of course you can treat these as separate elements too, although the asparagus and lemony dressing was particularly yummy with the fritters (by the way, it’s not often I put mushrooms after anything in terms of preferences). I suppose fresh peas would be pretty awesome too, or seared sliced fennel bulb, so if you’re one of the few people who doesn’t like asparagus, there you go.
It might sound like I’m being very laid back about this, but there are two things that are really important: using very fresh leeks and asparagus. This sounds a bit pretentious, but honestly – if you’ve never bought a leek from a farmers’ market, do so for this recipe. The green bit should still be alert and sturdy, not shrunken and bendy. I find the older leek greens go really stringy because the leek has dried out and also tastes slightly bitter.
Leek & fennel green fritters
serves 3-4 as part of a meal
- 4 medium sized semi-floury/all-purpose potatoes, diced small (1cm) – no need to peel unless you have a preference
- around 1 Tbs salted butter
- 1 tsp sea salt to start (more to taste), pepper to taste
- handful grated cheese (I used cheapo edam, feel free to be fancier)
- about 1 1/2 c green part of the leek, cut lengthways several times before cutting like chives
- cooking oil
- handful fennel fronds, finely chopped (any stalky bits can stay in there, they add a nice crunch)
- optional: half a handful parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 egg (omit if making this as a mash)
Boil potatoes until soft – easiest way to test is to eat a bit. You don’t want the corners to collapse or they will be overcooked and too wet.
Meanwhile, add some oil to a frypan and add the leek (doesn’t have to be on a single layer). Cover, turn heat to medium. When things start sizzling under the lid, uncover and mix around a bit. Cover again and let cook a minute before uncovering, stirring. You want to just soften the leeks – they will go a happy bright green, then start to go a bit green-brown – take off heat immediately when they start to lose the bright green colour, and set aside in a bowl.
Drain potatoes when cooked, but not too thoroughly (reserve some cooking water). Add butter, cheese, salt and pepper, and mash. Add fennel, leek and parsley, and mix.
In the leek frypan, heat about 1 Tbs oil on medium heat. Preheat oven to 150C (300F) to keep fritters warm while you cook them in batches. Once it starts shimmering, add a dollop to the pan and press down a little (the top doesn’t have to be smooth). The fritters should not be wider/longer than the spatula you use to flip them, or they will fall apart. Don’t fill the pan too much – leave yourself some room to slip the spatula under (I only did 4 fritters in a 9″ pan). Let cook about a minute – the edges should go dark brown before you flip. If they take less than a minute, your pan is too hot and this will not give you enough time to flip & dollop comfortably, so reduce the heat. If they take ages, turn up the heat (it’s better to start lower than you think you’ll need, as they won’t burn this way). Flip, cook another minute on the other side, then transfer to paper-lined plates/racks in your oven. If you have cooling racks with narrow grills you can place them on racks, which will keep the edges a bit crispier.
Peel the bottom inch of the asparagus if they are “woody.” To test if they are woody, try to break the skin with your nail – if it’s hard and difficult, it needs peeling. Just a little trick to ensure you don’t unnecessarily waste any :)
Heat about a teaspoon of oil (or half oil, half butter) on medium in a heavy-bottomed frypan. Add asparagus to hot pan, cover immediately, and turn off heat. Let sit for about 2 minutes before uncovering and testing for done-ness. They should almost be done and a little seared on one side. Sprinkle with salt and add a tiny splash of water, then re-cover and let sit another minute. Uncover, let the steam evaporate to leave you with a mostly dry pan. Serve.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frypan on high heat. It needs to be really hot – a bead of water should skip across the pan. Add about a Tablespoon of oil (or half oil, half butter), then immediately add halved mushrooms (or if small, leave whole), tossing or mixing. Add a little salt and stir every minute or so (let the mushrooms brown a little before stirring). The mushrooms will sweat and you want to keep cooking until the liquid stops coming out. Do not be tempted to add any water to the pan!
Punchy citrus chive dressing
- juice & zest of one large lemon (or one small tangelo)
- twice the amount of juice in extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- optional: about half a teaspoon pomegranate molasses/raspberry vinegar to keep it fruity
- about 1 Tbs very finely chopped fresh chives or other suitable herb, plus extra fresh chives for sprinkling over the whole dish
Smoosh the zest with the salt, either in a mortar and pestle or just with your fingers. Stir with other ingredients using a fork (and whisking motion) in a small cup. Taste, and add more salt/lemon/pepper if required.
You can either use the asparagus & mushrooms as a “bed” for the fritters or put them on top, then drizzle in dressing and crumble chevre on top.
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The following are all from Food 52
, one of my favourite new food sites. The recipes on this site are all really interesting, using real natural ingredients and are photographed beautifully. What more could you ask for? It also has a really community vibe. If anyone knows of an Australasian/southern hemisphere version of this site, let me know.