In season: Leek pilaff

Leek pilaff is a versatile dish. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Leek pilaff is a versatile dish. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

It seems we have abandoned this great dish in favour of its Italian counterpart the risotto. Unlike risotto you don't have to stir it continuously, which is a great time-saver, and it will absorb any flavours you throw at it. I say bring back the pilaff: it is a wonderful and versatile dish.

100ml olive oil
1kg leeks, washed well and finely chopped
55g tomato passata or tomatoes whizzed and passed through a sieve (use tinned tomatoes when fresh ones are not in season)
2 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
250g long grain rice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon finely chopped
100g butter

Heat the olive oil in a wide-based saucepan or frypan, add the leeks and soften them over a low heat, stirring often.

Add the rice and stir to combine so every grain is coated in the oil and leek mixture. Let it cook for 2 minutes to allow the grains to slightly toast which will give your rice more depth in flavour and colour.

Add the tomato passata and stir well, then add the herbs.

Cover with enough water to half cover the rice (250ml).

Season lightly and arrange with the lemon slices on top. Cover with a lid and adjust the temperature to a gentle simmer.

Simmer for 25 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed into the rice and the rice is tender.

Remove the lemon slices and discard. Slice the butter thinly and arrange the slices over the surface, put the lid back on, and let the rice rest for 10 minutes without stirring.

Serve alongside fish, meat or simply on its own.


Alison Lambert, chef at the Otago Farmers Market, will be demonstrating this recipe at the market on Saturday morning.

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