Caramelised leek and mushroom pasta
It saddens me that I had never tried eating leeks until I started flatting. They’re such a staple for the colder months – in soups, creamy sauces, pies, potato bakes, or just cut into rings, slowly fried in butter until crisped a little and golden. My parents hated the damn things, complaining they tasted watery and slimy and like an off onion. When tasting their leeks, I agreed – they were awful. However, leeks really don’t deserve such a miserable reputation. The secret to great tasting leeks is letting them cook on a lowish heat with some oil and butter (just enough that they’re not dry), until the bottoms start going a rich golden brown. This takes time I’ll admit, but the smell when it all goes right is swoon worthy. Add mushrooms and cream into the mix and you are set for a very moreish dish.
You can also then add some peas to further enhance sweetness, and a drizzle of lemon juice to cut the richness of all that cream and butter (it doesn’t end up being sour tasting at all though, in case you’re wondering). Stir through some pasta, and top with fresh parsley and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. That’s basically all this dish is. Pretty simple, but a surefire way to enjoy the (very under rated) leek.
I’m also excited about the pasta pictured – it’s by far my favourite home made pasta I’ve made yet, after many experiments. I didn’t photograph the process this time so I’ll have a proper post on getting this “perfect” pasta eventually. Home made pasta really deserves its own post – it’s super simple but there are, as it turns out, lots of intricacies that can change the pasta from average to amazing. I will continue to experiment until I have the right tips to impart. In the meantime, feel free to use your favourite egg fettucine, home made or store bought, for this dish. The recipe assumes you’re using dry store bought stuff, so keep that in mind if you’re making your own pasta (you legend!). You could also use the basic method and ingredients in a risotto (minus the cream), or in a soup.
Caramelised leek and mushroom pasta
- 1 leek, white part only, cleaned, halved lengthways, and sliced thinly (save the green for making stock, or another recipe)
- 3-4 handfuls various mushrooms, buttons quartered and portabellos cut into eighths
- 3-4 handfuls peas, frozen or fresh
- 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- optional: 2 bay leaves and half a bouillon cube or 1 tsp home made bouillon
- about 30g butter
- about 1 Tbs oil
- 200ml whipping cream
- enough (preferably egg) fettucine to feed your crowd, about 100g per person*
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of one small/medium lemon
- optional: small splash of porcini stock** and the mushrooms
* If you’re not using egg noodles you may want to add a poached egg atop your pasta, or add some tempeh strips, seitan, smoked chicken or bacon to the meal for extra protein.
** Simply immerse a pinch of dried porcini mushrooms in about 100ml water for at least half an hour. The water will go a rich dark brown – this is your stock. The mushrooms can be cooked with the other mushrooms.
In a large deep(ish) frypan (NOT a wok, which will not encourage the water from the leeks and mushrooms to evaporate), heat oil and butter on medium heat and add leeks and bay leaves if using, stirring to coat in the melted butter and oil. Once they start to really sizzle add mushrooms and reduce heat to medium low/low. Now is a good time to heat up your water for cooking pasta.
Stir to coat the mushrooms in oil, then let cook, undisturbed, until the leeks start sticking to the bottom of your pan and going golden. Stir in garlic, home made bouillon (if using powdered, add later) and the second half of the butter. By now your pasta water should be boiling, so add the pasta in to cook. Once again let the leeks etc cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the undersides. The mushrooms should look a little shrunken and have golden splotches on them too. Add peas, a splash of porcini stock or water, bouillon powder, and cream. Cover, letting cook about five minutes. Uncover, squeeze over half the lemon juice, stir through and taste. Add more lemon juice and salt if needed, and some pepper while you’re at it if needed. Keep in mind your pasta will not be very salty (unless you salted the water quite heavily). Your sauce is now ready. If it’s done before your pasta, reduce the heat to super low to just keep it hot, but not simmering, and cover (or leave it open if you want a thick sauce to just coat your pasta). If your pasta is done first, just drain and let it sit, covered, in the pan after tossing with a little oil to stop it all sticking.
Add pasta to sauce pan and stir around. Serve topped with fresh torn parsley, a drizzle of good olive oil and a smattering of freshly ground black pepper.
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