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Real food: 18/02/2010

Leeks are rather underrated in Ireland. All round the Mediterranean you will find recipes for sweet baby leeks -- always choose young, sweet leeks if you can.

Leeks are the sweetest member of their family and are delicious braised slowly in butter or simmered in cream.

A cold leek and potato Vichyssoise is the perfect summer soup.

Recipes for leeks may instruct you to use only the white part of the vegetable. I often ignore this rule as I like the taste and colour of the soft green flesh an inch or two above the white. The woody green tops can be added to stock.

Braised Leeks and Bacon with Mornay Sauce

Gruyère is the usual choice but any good hard cheese will work such as Mossfield, Mount Callan or Glebe Brethan (a Comté-style cheese from Louth).

Ingredients: Leeks, pack of dry-cured bacon, milk, cheese, butter, flour.

Trim and boil the leeks in salted water for ten minutes. Fry the bacon until crisp and remove. Add the leeks to the pan and fry gently in the bacon fat for five minutes add a little butter if needed.

Mornay Sauce -- Heat 250ml of full-fat milk in a non-stick pot. Melt 40g butter in a pan, add 40g of flour and stir until it comes together, frying for a minute to cook the flour. Add the hot milk, salt and pepper and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add 100g of grated cheese and stir until melted.

Place the leeks and chopped bacon in an oval baking dish, pour over the sauce and bake for 20 minutes.

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