Incase you didn’t know, leeks are related to garlic and onions but are much more subtle, sweeter and more sophisticated in flavour.
When buying leeks, my advice would be to go for small or medium in size. Large leeks (more than about an inch in diameter) tend to be more tough and woody. Make sure the leaf tops are fresh and green plus the root end should be without any damage and you should be able to squeeze them slightly in your hand. Make sure you purchase more leeks than needed (around double by weight) to allow for any loss due to trimming.
If you are buying your leeks a few days before preparing the meal. Store them loosely wrapped in plastic, this stops them from drying out and will contain their smell and flavour. You can keep leeks like this in the fridge for up to a week.
For the soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ leek, green part only, chopped
400ml/14fl oz vegetable stock
3 tbsp double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the croûtes:
3 slices French stick
85g/3oz mature cheddar, grated
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the soup, heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and leek for about 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the stock and simmer for 4-5 minutes, then stir in the cream. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper then blend until smooth with a stick blender.
For the croûtes, arrange the slices of bread on a tray and bake in the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from the oven, sprinkle over the cheese and chilli and return to the oven for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Serve the soup in a bowl with the croûtes on the side.