It can be hard to retain fresh herbal flavours when macerating, however this method works really well and will retain its fragrance for several days if chilled.
The dominant flavours in this recipe are the lingering smoky, green allium notes of the charred leeks. I wanted to create a fresh tasting early autumn dish, so I’ve chosen lighter herbal, citrus and dairy notes, in the form of the lemon thyme oil and feta, to lift the dish.
If you wanted to create a wintery dish, you could draw on the smoky, woody notes of the leeks instead, by adding toasted nuts or smoky bacon in place of the feta.
For the thyme oil
2 bunches lemon thyme
100ml cold-pressed sunflower oil
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus 1tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
700g medium-thin leeks
2tbs cold-pressed sunflower oil
2 heads Treviso or red chicory, separated
115g brined cured feta, drained
The day before you need the oil, wash the thyme and strip the leaves, discarding their stems as you do so. Drop the leaves into a small saucepan of boiling water. Cook for four minutes, drain the leaves into a sieve, then plunge the sieve into a bowl of iced water. Once the thyme leaves are cold, drain and squeeze dry. Place in a small container with the sunflower oil and lemon zest. Finely chop with a hand-held stick blender. Cover and chill for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, push the mixture through a fine sieve. Season the aromatic green oil with salt and pepper. This will keep for one week covered in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to dress the salad, whisk in the lemon juice.
For the salad, trim the leeks, cut away their dark green leaves and remove several layers of their tough outer leaves. Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Cut each leek into four equal lengths.
Set a cast-iron griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, lightly coat the leeks in the sunflower oil. Season lightly and place on the griddle pan – slipping the leek chunks in between the ridges so that the entire side of each leek turns golden brown. Griddle for about 10 minutes, turning regularly until tender and al dente in the centre. The outer leaves will look lightly charred, while the inner section will turn bright green.
Transfer the leeks to a large mixing bowl. Toss in 4tbs of the lemon thyme oil dressing. Leave for a few minutes to cool a little, then mix in the Treviso or red chicory and season lightly. Divide between four plates. Crumble the feta over each salad, drizzle with a little more lemon thyme oil and serve.
Note To add more autumnal notes, replace the lemony feta cheese with two handfuls of trimmed chanterelles that have been fried briskly in a little sunflower oil.
Taken from Sight Smell Touch Taste Sound: A New Way to Cook by Sybil Kapoor. Read our review here