This is a Greek approach to leeks. There they braise lots of vegetables in olive oil, the oil flavouring the vegetables and the vegetables flavouring the oil. It’s a tender, slow way of cooking and the end results are soft and intense. If you cook this as a side dish, you’ll probably promote it to a vegetable main course at some stage. If you can’t be bothered to make the olive purée, you could use bought tapenade instead.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Eight as a side dish
For the leeks and beans
6 thyme sprigs
10 garlic cloves, peeled if you like and left whole
225ml extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
2 x 400g tins white beans (cannellini or haricot), drained
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
For the olive purée
150g pitted black olives
2 tbsp capers, rinsed of salt or brine
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the oven to 190C/180C fan/gas mark 5.
Remove the coarse or discoloured outer leaves from the leeks and slice off the dark green leaves at the top. Trim the bases. Slice the leeks into 2.5cm lengths. Put these into a baking dish – roughly 23 x 30cm – cut-end up (this way the oil can properly penetrate the leeks). Add the thyme, garlic, olive oil and some seasoning. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Carefully turn the leeks over – the arrangement doesn’t have to be perfect – cover with foil again and cook for another 30 minutes.
Add the white beans to the dish and carefully turn them over so they get imbued with the oil (add a little extra oil if you think it needs it). Season. Cover with foil again and bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through (you don’t want the beans to get dry).
Remove the sprigs of thyme and stir in the balsamic, lemon juice and parsley. Don’t worry about what shape the leeks are in now, you just need the flavours of the beans, leeks and oil to come together.
For the olive purée, put everything in a small food processor or bash the ingredients in a mortar until you have a rough paste. Serve this with the leeks and beans – let people help themselves or dot teaspoons of it among the vegetables. Serve warm.