This is so basic that it hardly warrants a whole post to itself, but no collection of family favourites would be complete without it. Cheesy leeks were created out of a need to disguise the vegetables accompanying Sunday roasts when you were small and
fussy fussier. Cauliflower was never on the cards, that excellent vegetable having been ruined for your father by over-zealous boiling in the 1970s. So leeks it had to be: cheap, green and rendered palatable by a cheesy white sauce.
Serves 6 as a side
3 large leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into 5cm cylinders
1 heaped tbsp flour
½ tsp mustard powder
250 ml milk
Salt, pepper & nutmeg
100g cheddar (or other strongly-flavoured hard cheese), grated coarsely
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 (fan), or just use the temperature at which you’re already cooking your roast.
Arrange the leek cylinders standing upright in a steamer basket and steam for five minutes. If you don’t have a steamer, then you can just boil them instead but make sure you drain them thoroughly.
In a small pan make a roux: melt the butter, then turn up the heat and add the flour and the mustard powder. Whisk until the mixture becomes paler (do not allow to brown), then add the milk. Whisk vigorously and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is thick and no longer tastes of flour. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then turn off the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese.
Butter an oven-proof dish and arrange the leeks in it, lying on their sides. Pour over the cheesy sauce, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and finally the rest of the grated cheese. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until brown on top.
Note: this is very versatile. You can cook it at a lower / higher temperature for longer / less time, and you can even grill it last minute if you don’t have room in the oven, although in that case I’d advise steaming the leeks for a couple of minutes longer to ensure that they’re soft enough to eat.