Move over kale – there's a new super-food on the menu
With British leek season officially kicking off on November 1st, new research has highlighted the importance of the vegetable. Leeks come in especially handy this time of year, not only helping to ward off colds, but also improving our gut health. In fact, experts increasingly believe they can improve our overall well being.
Research conducted by the University of Colorado has found leeks are one of the best sources of a prebiotic called inulin, with the findings showing this helps to improve our sleep and reduce stress.
Christine Bailey, author of 'The Gut Health Diet Plan' said: "Not only are leeks packed with essential vitamins and minerals they are rich in specific health promoting antioxidants and particular types of fibre known to promote a healthy gut."
As well as boosting our gut health, leeks have been shown to have a series of health benefits, including:
Boosting your mood
Prebiotics cause changes to the gut microbiome, which are known to affect emotions, mood and cognition.
Leeks contain a compound called allicin, which is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, making them ideal for protecting you from winter coughs and colds.
Leeks are high in antioxidant polyphenols, which help to protect blood vessels and blood cells. They're also rich in heart healthy vitamins.
Leeks provide Vitamin K, calcium, manganese and magnesium, which all play an important role in bone building nutrients.
Leeks contain inulin, which will form a gel like substance when it combines with water, and expands in the digestive tract to help decrease appetite and cravings.
We have three healthy recipes, courtesy of Christine Bailey, for you to try!
Turkey, Feta & Leek Burgers With Herby Yogurt Dressing (serves 4)
You will need
1 leek, roughly chopped
400g turkey mince
100g feta cheese, cut into chunks
1tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1tbsp capers, drained
½ lemon, zest only
1 egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
150g natural yoghurt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
Handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Handful of dill leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Burger buns or gluten free rolls
Grated raw beetroot or coleslaw
1 To make the dressing simply mix all the ingredients together. Season to taste. Chill until required.
2 For the burgers, place the leeks in a food processor and process until finely chopped. All the remaining burger ingredients, and process briefly until well combined. Using damp hands, shape the mixture into 4 large burgers. Place on a greased baking tray and chill for 30 minutes.
3 When you are ready to cook preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5. Place the burgers on a tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through.
4 To serve cut the burger buns in half, place some lettuce on the bun followed by the burger. then add some grated beetroot and tomato. Finally, drizzle over a little of the dressing and top with the burger bun. Accompany with salad and coleslaw.
Green Shakshuka (Serves 2)
You will need
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
1 leek shredded or finely sliced
1 clove of garlic chopped
1tbsp olive oil
100g chopped kale (large stems discarded)
1 courgette, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4tbsp vegetable or chicken stock
Handful of baby spinach leaves
4 free-range eggs
Handful of mint leaves, chopped
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
30g feta cheese, cubed
2tbsp natural yogurt
Salt and Black pepper to taste
1 In a large frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and bash until fine.
2 Add the olive oil to the frying pan and fry the spring onion, leeks, celery and garlic over a medium-low heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spices. Add the kale and courgette to the pan with the lemon juice and vegetable or chicken stock. Stir until the kale wilts, about 2-3 minutes.
3 Add the spinach and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.
4 Crack the eggs into the pan. Cover the pan and cook the eggs until the whites turn opaque, about 4-5 minutes.
5 Scatter over the herbs, feta and a drizzle of yogurt and season with salt and black pepper.
6 Best served straight away.
Quinoa Tabbouleh with Shredded Leeks and Preserved Lemon
You will need
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, chopped
120ml extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, shredded
Drizzle of olive oil for frying
1 red onion, finely diced
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1 cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
4 vine ripe tomatoes deseeded and diced
1 preserved lemon, rind only, chopped
1 Rinse the quinoa in cold water. Place the quinoa in a pan with 525ml water. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
2 Place the herbs, garlic, capers, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender and process until smooth. Pour the dressing over the quinoa. Allow the mixture to sit with the pan covered for 10 minutes.
3 Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and lightly saute the leeks for 2-3 minutes until just soft.
4 Combine all the remaining ingredients with the leeks in a large bowl. Add the lemon infused quinoa and toss well. Taste and season if necessary.