Monday, 26 February 2018

Whipped Feta on Toast with Smoked Leeks and Black Sesame

Sat round the little pot bellied stove on a winter lunch time, chatting with a couple of very talented chefs who wanted to come and do a guest chef night at Cook House, one of them suddenly looked at the fire and said, 'you could cook aubergines in there, or leeks...' and just as fast I was kicking myself that I had never thought to do just that. I love cooking on fire, I have a fire... it took someone else to join the dots that day, but I haven't looked back... Sticking a bunch of leeks into the flames before you could say... burnt...
This is now a staple item on the Cook House menu. The whipped feta is a good vehicle for any number of toppings, salty cheese whipped up with thick creamy yoghurt and bitter good quality olive oil. It works well with fruit or slow cooked veg, the salty bitterness of the cheese and oil balancing well with sweetness in the toppings.
Whipped Feta on Toast with Smoked Leeks - The Grazer

I've had it on and off the menu in a huge number or different guises; Grilled peach and mint, fresh pear and rocket, blood orange and toasted walnuts, pickled grapes and mint, roast tomatoes and lovage, roast red peppers with rosemary... But this was one of the first variations I came up with and is still a favourite.
Crumble 200g of feta into a bowl and add 50g of good quality, live, full fat yoghurt and 25g of extra virgin olive oil, either put it into a stand mixer and whisk on high for 5 minutes, or use a hand whisk to do the same. There will still be some tiny lumps of feta, but in general the mix should become lighter, smoother and more aerated. Now chill for an hour or so before using and it will set a bit and retain the air.

Smoked Leeks - The Grazer

Shove a couple of large leeks into the flames of your fire, so the whole of the white end and most of the green is engulfed by heat and flame, leaving the leafy end poking out so you can get hold of it to turn. You can do this in a woodburner, an open fire or if you're having a bbq shove them into the coals. They will take about 15 minutes, turning occasionally; the whole of the outside with go black and charred. You will know that they are done as when you pick them up, using long heat proof tongs, they will collapse and bend as the inside is cooked and super soft, juices sizzling into the fire.
Take them out and put them into a baking tray and cover with cling film, leave them to cool so you can handle them, this also allows the smoky flavours to sink in. When they are cool enough to handle remove the black outer layers, it's a messy job... You will be left with the soft cooked inner part of the leek that is lightly smoked and sweet in flavour. Shred this all up into a tangle and dress with a little olive oil and salt, it doesn't matter of you get the odd black bit here and there, I think its unavoidable really.

To assemble, toast some nice sour dough, spread with the feta mix, a good centimetre thick, then top with a tangled pile of smoked leeks and a scatter of toasted black sesame seeds. It's delicious; salty, smoky, sweet and nutty, a really good balance.

Cook House - The Grazer