A puree of Gorgons’ heads…

“Cheap” is a much maligned word. Cheap skate, cheap shot, dirt cheap and on the cheap are terms that denigrate, that define something or someone as less than it or they should be. In our wealth driven society a divide has appeared. A rift, that dwarfs the eponymous valley, between the very wealthy and the abjectly poor. On one side of that valley, let us call it the Cheapside, “cheap” has become, not so much an accolade, but of the essence. Cheap lets people eat and keeps them warm. Events seen and words read dispirit and disillusion me, but my blog is not a pulpit for proselytism. Although that is the case I should confirm that I am daily more and more depressed with the way that groups of the human race, who purport to be forces for good, seem to be striving to return to the fundamentalism of the Dark Ages and, this time around, fully equipped with all the accoutrements of the modern world to make the experience truly infernal. The sea change in the way of life in the West, one side of the rift, has widened the valley immeasurably.

Meanwhile, here in happy valley, our neighbour’s vegetable garden is positioned but a biscuit’s toss from our wood pile and because of this, and their generosity, we are often the beneficiary of gifts such as the leeks and potatoes in the picture above. They, our neighbours, regularly encourage me, in winter, to take vegetables from the ground whenever I want some but, not having a vegetable patch of my own through which I could return the favour, I am loathe to do this. The potatoes come from their store in a darkened outhouse where the forms of ghostly white potatoes are clearly visible in the gloom thanks to a coating of lime which slows down the shoots that, if left to grow, would create a hellish vision not unlike a box full of shrunken Gorgon’s heads. Was our neighbour’s name Perseus, I would be nervous of accepting a gift of such spuds. This also makes me worry about Gorgonzola….did Perseus go through a nightmare cheese making period.


Casting aside the vision of faces wreathed in writhing serpents, I created a wonderful supper from those humble ingredients with only very few additions. Leeks in red wine is a recipe which, each time I make it,  surprises me with its depth of flavour. I originally found the recipe in my copy of Caroline Conran’s “Poor Cook” which volume has survived the depredations of countless house moves and which I still use regularly. There is a meatiness to the flavour which I like, not in the terms of a meat substitute, but because it is so much more substantial as a single vegetable dish than I would ever imagine. The leeks become fondant to the point where a table knife cuts cleanly through them, thus avoiding the wet, stringiness that can so often be the case with cooked, whole leeks, whilst the red wine reduction adds the umami that waters the mouth. I serve these leeks with a purée of potatoes made silky with plenty of butter and creme fraîche. Good as this may be, a winter’s supper would be incomplete without pudding.


In winter there are always apples, pears and clementines together with a hand of breakfast bananas in the fruit bowl.Today,on television,I saw a very good recipe for what appears to be an incredibly quick and simple banana ice cream, so a few fingers of the hand will be sacrificed to that end. It was the scent and appearance of two large and perfectly ripe Williams pears that decided dessert. Returning to the book shelves I remembered a recipe in Mary Cadogan’s “Pies & Tarts” which was a clever combination of apples and orange juice in a light sponge which, in turn, was encased in a flaky pastry case. As thrift was the key to the menu, I decided on using the two pears in place the apples and orange. Apples and pears would have been very good, but why waste the apples which will make another pudding….cheap skate, Roger!

Here are the two recipes….enjoy. How nice it would have been had I bothered to create both the recipes with the same size fonts, etc…..just another cheap shot..must try harder.

Leeks in red wine

Pear sponge tart

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2015, apples, Apricot jam, Baking, bananas, Caroline Conran, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, friendship, Fruit, Garden, Gardening, leeks, Leeks in red wine, lifestyle, Mary Cadogan, Pear Sponge tart, Pears, Photography, photography course, tart, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to A puree of Gorgons’ heads…

  1. Vicki says:

    Looks absolutely delicious, Roger. The trouble with your wonderful recipes and cooking is, that as a single person with family living a fair distance away, I would make your recipes, pig out in a few days on my own, and end up the size of a house.

    I can only say how lucky you are to have generous neighbours too. 10 leeks would cost a fortune in my local fresh food market, especially if I bought them from my favourite organic stall.

    (BTW This is one of the few downsides of living on a very frugal pension – I can’t afford to cook or try any new recipes. I just have to drool over your blog from time to time. I tend to buy 3 onions, 2 oranges, 1 leek etc Gosh, how I miss my old salary. The only things I really use lavishly are herbs).

    • Vicki, hi. Thanks for that reply which get right to the point.We too are pensioners living on very little after a well paid career ( unfortunately I forgot to save anything)and there are just two of us in the household. A dessert like that tart would last us over the week and other dishes that I make are planned to freeze or, like Parmigiana, to be eaten over two separate days. We are lucky having such generous neighbours who, like all their friends, grow enormous amounts of fruit and vegetables….because their parents and grand parents did and so that is how they live. The leeks in red wine works very well with one big leek and just stock. Good luck with your cooking and I’ll try and include things that may work for you:)

      • Vicki says:

        I’d eat that tart in 2 days as it looks so yummy, Roger 😀
        (I’m thinking of writing a blog one day on how to live well on a frugal Government Disability Pension. I too never saved/planned for the future and inability to work. Good healthy food costs a fortune here in Australia). That’s one of the reasons I had to give up trying to do food photography – it cost too much to buy the ingredients to make my favourite recipes – LOL

      • I have a similar problem…which is why I often repeat dishes on my blogs. For the most part I blog what we’re eating. I have the advantage of having built up a massive library of food pictures over the years that I’ve been a food photographer, so they often make guest appearances:)

  2. Gerlinde says:

    What a generous neighbor you have. Leaks are such a wonderful vegetable and can be used in so many ways. Your recipes look delicious and worth a try. Thank you!

  3. Misky says:

    I’m doing a rolled pork roast today, and these leeks are just the ticket. Timing might be tricky though; you just never know with leeks. >

  4. Mad Dog says:

    Ha ha – Medusa potatoes!
    I just bought a bunch of leaks and a pheasant from the farmers’ market, so I think your leak recipe is on the cards tonight – thanks 😉

  5. How lucky you are to have such lovely generous neighbors. The leeks and tart are gorgeous. I am also in the same predicament, living alone it’s hard for me to make everything I ant to make for fear it would go straight to the hips and everywhere else.

  6. Nice work Roger. I have to admit it does sound like you’re “back on the gear” in places, but nice work none the less 🙂

  7. I am sending the leeks recipe to MTM right now, Roger. We both adore leeks, and I’ve never seen them prepared this way.

  8. platedujour says:

    I always thought leaks were highly underestimated vegetables for some reason. I have a recipe on my blog- it’s a simple starter, you just wrap them with a slice of lard and bake in the oven for 30 min- heaven if you ask me, no spices, nothing just these two ingredients. This cake looks fabulous. As for the beginning of this post I hear you- I know what you mean. Have a nice week x

    • I too like leeks prepared like that…very good ( although we would use the word “bacon” rather than “lard” which is the equivalent of “saindoux” in English). Glad you liked the cake and the post..thanks for the visit:)

  9. Angeline M says:

    The recipe for leeks will definitely be tried in this Northern California kitchen in the coming week. Sounds, and looks delicious. I think a large piece of that tart might be a wonderful payment to your generous neighbors.

  10. Eha says:

    A supermarket ad repeated here ad infinitum [well, ad nauseum!] at the moment courtesy from one of our duopoly shows a multiplicity of supposed ‘buyers’ holding up a good and smiling ‘isn’t that cheap?’ into the camera!! Clever in today’s’ marketing world!! I absolutely love leeks and they never seem to be ‘cheap’ Down Under. Do like your recipe tho’ as have not married red wine and those delicious stalks 🙂 !

  11. Well those are real Roger recipe’s!!!! Just up my alley, leek is one of the most wonderful vegetable, so much to do with it…. Ah and the pear tart, I have done that with crushed almonds on the bottom, turns out almost like a marzipan flavor.

  12. Enjoyed the post and also the comments about managing on a budget – that’s what I love about a lot of mediterranean cooking…very simple and economical ingredients can be turned into something wonderful with not too much effort. And then you add your magical touch of words and photos et voila! I love leeks cooked like this, the French appreciate leeks as an ingredient to be enjoyed alone, and very wise they are too.

  13. Thanks for sharing the recipes, Roger – particularly intrigued by that golden pear sponge!

  14. Michelle says:

    And what a pudding it is!

  15. Love leeks! Not a cheap vegetable as vegetables go where I live.

  16. Leeks, leeks, leeks and so beautiful both fresh and the way you have prepared them. I grown leeks this time of year…it is cold one day and hot the next which they seem to love…I have not cooked leeks in this way but shall now try it. My partner is Dutch so leeks are a normal part of our culinary life. Recently he chopped and sauteed a few and we topped off our baked potatoes with them! Another lovely way to eat them. As always your posts are well written, intriguing and fun.

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