I have already told you about this wonderful book Saha. This wonderful recipe was in the section entitled vegetable mezze. It was really hard to pick a recipe up amongst so many. I really liked the idea of stewing the vegetables in such wonderful broth – with the arak (or a substitute in my case) At first I got a bit worried about the fennel – ‘is it going to work well with all these vegetables?’’ I didn’t want anything too sweet. I did not have the arak, in fact I had no idea what it was. After reading about it in the introductory note to the chapter I decided to use Pernod instead as it was the only thing I had at home.
I found this dish to be a delicious and elegant mezze. I had it with toasted bread and it just proved delicious. There were some leftovers the next day and it tasted even more delicious than I remembered.
Confit leeks, tomatoes and mushrooms with arak and almonds
3 leeks, white part only, cut into 4cm rounds
8 shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
Few sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Juice of 5 lemons
400ml dry white whine
400ml extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
8 medium Portobello mushrooms, trimmed
6 small vine-ripened tomatoes
80ml arak or another aniseed liqueur
Freshly ground sea salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
60g flaked almonds, fried golden brown
Put the leeks, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices into a large, heavy-based non-reactive saucepan. Pour on the lemon juice, wine, water and olive oil and stir in the salt.
Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the saucepan and sit it on top of the vegetables. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Lift up the paper and slip the mushrooms and tomatoes in amongst the vegetables. Replace the paper and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the arak. Leave the vegetables to cool slightly in the liquid.
When ready to serve, lift the vegetables out of the stewing liquor into a serving dish, season with a little salt, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaked almonds.