W is for Wales

daffodilsThe leek is the national symbol of Wales.  It is also an exceptionally, though sometimes overlooked, vegetable. Leeks belong to the Allium family, along with onions, spring onions, shallots and garlic, writes our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,   freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Like its relatives, the leek contains various sulphur-containing compounds, including allicin.  The allicin molecule not only contributes to the characteristic flavour of the leek, but also has powerful antimicrobial properties and can mop up free radicals, which otherwise attack DNA and other cellular components.

Leeks are also a good source of the anti-cancer phytochemical, kaempferol (as are broccoli, kale and cabbage), as well as being packed with fibre and vitamins. Last, but not least, leeks contain oligosaccharides with probiotic properties, which feed the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.

So celebrate St David’s Day, on Wednesday 1 March, with these two healthy leek recipes.

Leek, celery and spinach soup

Leek and potato is the classic soup, but I prefer to use the potatoes in a salad (see below) and go for this green soup, where the crème fraiche adds a touch of creaminess.

Serves two

Two leeks, chopped
Three celery stalks, chopped
Stock or water
One bag spinach
One tbsp. tomato puree
One tsp Marmite
Dried mixed herbs
One tbsp. crème fraiche

Soften the leeks and celery in coconut or rapeseed oil and then add the stock (one litre or so), Marmite, herbs and tomato puree. When the vegetables are cooked, add the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes, till wilted. Liquidise and stir in the crème fraiche.

Leek and potato salad

Cold potatoes (like cold pasta) are richer in resistant starch than hot potatoes and this can help lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance. The celery and peas in this salad make it a healthy high fibre dish.

Serves four

750g salad potatoes
packet of baby leeks, chopped
Three celery stalks, chopped
Tbsp. capers
Small packet of frozen peas

For the dressing: Two tbsp. Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche, two tsp mustard, one tbsp. linseed oil

Cook the potatoes and add the peas for the last five minutes. Drain and cool. Add the other ingredients, mix the dressing and toss. Make a rainbow meal high in healthy fats by serving with a beetroot and tomato salad, smoked mackerel/smoked salmon.

Alternative Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit is a classic comfort dish. There are many different recipes, most involving egg, flour, milk and beer, so you’re actually grilling a rich cheese sauce. Given that we’re now being advised to eat 10 portions fruit and vegetables a day, I’ve given the Welsh rarebit a makeover. If you try to add extra fruit and vegetables to all your meals and snacks, like this, you’ll soon get up to 10 servings a day.

Serves one

One thick slice of the most interesting bread you can find (spelt sourdough, walnut, wholemeal pitta etc).

Around 30g crumbled/sliced Caerphilly cheese
Small carton of cherry or baby plum tomatoes
Chopped up red chilli (optional)
Big bunch of watercress

Grill the tomatoes whole, until soft. Toast one side of the bread. Spread the tomatoes on the other side, top with the cheese and chilli and grill until the cheese melts. Serve on a bed of watercress.

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