Confit Leek, Mozzarella & Tomato Vinaigrette

Confit leek and mozzarella is one of my favourite combinations. I have used it in the restaurants in many different interpretations and it has always been a success. The idea of confit’ing anything often puts home cooks off, but with most vegetables it’s a breeze! And the added advantage is that you can make it well in advance. I always think it a shame if the host(ess) has to be stuck in the kitchen making starters while everyone else is having fun. This is the perfect thing! All the parts can be ready and even the lemon cream and leeks will gladly sit on the plates for an hour.

Leek & Mozzarella

Serves 4-6 people
  • 2-3 balls of mozzarella!

I thought I better mention that you will need mozzarella, apart from all the ingredients below. I normally buy 1 ball of mozzarella for every 2 people, cut nice slices out of the inside and then use the leftovers for something else. If you are buying Burrata instead, omit the lemon cream, it will be overkill. Just a little of the leek oil and tomato oil and your dish will be wonderful.

For the confit leeks:
  • 4 young leeks, cut into 6cm lengths
  • 350ml good olive oil
  • 2 tsp smoked Maldon salt
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed

Peel the tough outer layer of the leek away, but be careful not to split the layers underneath, or your leek will fall apart when cooking. Cut each leek into 6cm pieces, using only the white and light green part of the leek. Take a saucepan or small pot that can just hold your leek pieces in one single layer. Cover with the olive oil and add the salt and the peeled garlic.

Bring the oil to between 75ºC and 95ºC and keep it there until your leeks are really soft. If you don’t have a thermometer, just keep an eye on the oil and as soon as you have little bubbles forming, turn off the heat. Turn it on again after 5 minutes, bring to the same point and turn off again. Repeat until the leeks are soft. This should not take more than 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the leeks. Leave to cool in the oil.

For the tomato vinaigrette:
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely diced
  • 2.5g sea salt
  • 1.5g caster sugar
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped, crushed and chopped again
  • 1 small shallot, very finely diced
  • 15g tomato paste
  • 30g olive oil

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half crosswise, meaning not through the vine end. Gently squeeze out the seeds and use a teaspoon to remove the inside. Now cut into small dice. Mix with the salt, sugar, garlic and shallots and leave to stand at room temperature for at least half an hour.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and when it’s just medium hot, add the tomato paste. Make sure to be using paste and not thick sauce. Keep stirring the paste while heating the oil. The paste will slowly go from sticking together to forming flakes. You should be able to smell the tomato aroma when you are almost done. Do not burn the thing! Pour into a bowl as leave to cool.

Pour the tomatoes into a fine strainer and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. Add this to the cooled tomato oil. Adjust seasoning and you’re done!

For the lemon herb cream (optional):
  • 4 Tbsp liquid cream at room temperature
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • salt & white pepper

If you can’t be bothered to make a third part to the recipe, just don’t. Add a little more leek oil and possible a dash of unadulterated cream. But seriously, you’ve come this far, why not go the whole way? Slowly add the lemon to the cream until you achieve the thickness you want, then gently stir in the salt, pepper and herbs.

To finish:

Spread one tablespoon of the lemon herb cream in the middle of the plate. Gently remove the leeks from the oil. Be careful, because they have a tendency to come apart, with the inside layers just sliding out of the outer ones. Place two pieces of leek on each bed of cream. My leeks were really thick, so I decided to cut them in half lengthwise, which is a damn difficult thing to do if you want to keep each falling apart. Don’t worry about the oil, just let it run over the plate, it is delicious.

Put one or two slices of mozzarella on top, then a dollop of the tomato vinaigrette. Try to scoop out the solids and then drizzle some extra oil all over. You can make this dish look elegant or rustic, plate it neatly geometrical and drizzle the tomato oil Jackson Pollok fashion over the plate like a 3 star chef, or put it all lopsided into one of those flat earthenware bowls like a trattoria, the taste will be the same – damned delicious.

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