“Another bite” is a series of occasional posts about food, presenting the delicious local products, tasty dishes and other gastronomic delights we encounter on our tours and cruises.
Milder and sweeter than onions, leeks are a member of the same allium family, but have their own distinct and elegant flavour, making them a perfect accompaniment for many Mediterranean winter dishes. Most of us are probably aware of the very delicious Potage Parmentier, the French winter velouté soup of leeks, potato and fresh cream, or of the famous Vichyssoise, a cold version, once the indispensable first course in the French summer menu. In Greece and Turkey, rice, pasta, potatoes and celery are often mixed with leeks so as to give us savoury dishes such as pies with leeks and goat cheese, often also made with bulgur instead of pastry, or risotto – and of course the traditional Greek Prasotigania (fried pork or chicken with leeks). Additionally, in Northern Greece leeks are combined with fresh tomato sauce and the local red wine, the famous Xinomavro, to create spicy and flavoursome winter appetisers and pan-fried dishes.
Pork with Leeks braised in the saucepan is a delicious dish from Greek Cuisine, one of the all-time classic standards and favourites for Sunday lunch or the festive table. It is a recipe that all Greek mums and grandmas have prepared for generations, filling the house with the sweet smell of leeks and the sweetness of their very love.
Leeks, as well as celery, cabbage and other vegetables in all their different versions are often served with egg-lemon sauce (well-known as avgolemono) in this small corner of the world. However, for the following recipe, we have decided to prepare a lighter version made with a lemon-butter-mustard sauce, in order to balance the leeks’ intensity and sweetness with lemon and mustard acidity – and thus keeping avgolemono for an upcoming very special winter dish.
Braised Pork with Leeks – Recipe
1½ kg pork, preferably shoulder or collar, cut into small pieces
1 kg leeks, coarsely chopped (as mostly only the white and firm part is eaten and the rest of the stalks is discarded, buy approx. 2 kg leeks)
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp butter
½ cup of water
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
5-8 whole allspice berries (optional)
1 tbsp mustard (optional)
Cut the leeks (only the white and firm part) and the carrots and wash them thoroughly under running water, then slice both (not too fine) into round slices.
Cut the pork into smallish pieces (not to small, preferably medium-sized, so they stay tender while cooking).
- Pour ½ cup of water into a large frying pan and sauté the leeks and carrots for about 10 minutes at medium-high heat, stirring often, until the leeks have become soft and sticky without yet turning brown. Then remove from the heat.
- In a large saucepan, heat ½ cup of olive oil, then sauté the pork over high heat. Add the finely chopped onion and allspice and stir for 6-7 minutes, to avoid sticking to the bottom. Pour in ½ cup of dry white wine and heat a little more, until the alcohol has evaporated.
- Add the leeks and carrots, season with freshly ground black pepper and pour in approximately ½ cup of boiling water so as to nearly cover the mixture. Stir just once and cover the saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat until the meat and vegetables are tender, about 40-45 minutes. If the mix looks too dry while cooking, add a little boiling water.Tip: avoid stirring during cooking as the leeks will fall apart. You can just move your covered saucepan in order to stir the mix.
- In a small bowl or blender stir well the juice of 2 lemons, 2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp mustard and salt.
- Pour the lemon mix over the pork and leeks 5-8 minutes before removing them from the heat.
Serve with a sprinkling of thyme sprigs and season with salt (if necessary) and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!