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How to turn leek tops into zero-waste tempura | Waste not


The dark green tops of leeks (AKA flag leaves) are an underutilised, nutrient-dense ingredient in their own right. They can be fibrous, though, so cut into thin rounds before adding to a dish in place of or alongside the white parts. Pretty much everything from an oyster to a Mars bar tastes wonderful when coated in batter and fried until golden, which makes deep-frying a great way to use up odds and ends of all kinds of veg, while at the same time upcycling them into a real treat.

Tempura with leeks and leftovers

Cutting fibrous leek tops into rounds shortens the fibres, making them more digestible. If you have any other vegetables that need using up, this is as good a recipe as any, not least because everything tastes great fried. I use Doves Farm’s gluten-free self-raising flour for tempura, because it’s so light, fluffy and crisp, but plain wheat flour or even wholewheat flour will still work deliciously, though make sure to mix the batter as little as possible, to keep it light and crunchy. And remember, a very cold batter made in advance will always make the crispiest tempura. Save the cooking oil afterwards by first leaving it to cool down completely, then strain into a suitable container through a fine sieve and cheesecloth, and store in a cool, dark place. Use any excess batter for pancakes, or freeze for the next time you fancy tempura.

Serves 2-4

1 green leek top
Assorted raw vegetables
, cut according to size and density (see introduction; optional)
35ml aquafaba, refrigerated
35ml cold water
60g gluten-free self-raising flour, or wheat flour (refrigerated, ideally)
Frying oil
Soy sauce, chilli flakes, lemon and/or mayo, to serve (optional)

Wash and dry all the vegetables that you’d like to tempura. Cut the leek top into rounds and the other vegetables into larger or smaller pieces, depending on their density and how you like them: leaves and light vegetables such as shiitake can be left whole or cut into large-ish pieces, whereas denser or bigger vegetables such carrots and cauliflower should be cut into long, thin slices or divided into florets.

To make a small batch of tempura batter for two to four people, whisk the cold aquafaba and cold water with 60g flour (if possible, do this in advance and refrigerate).

Fill a saucepan less than a third full with frying oil, and place on a medium heat. It’s ready when a drip of batter bubbles and rises to the surface almost immediately.

Working in batches, dip the leek rounds and other vegetables into the batter one at a time, shake off any excess, then carefully lower into the hot oil and fry for 45 seconds. Flip, fry for another 45-60 seconds, until lightly golden, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a wire rack to drain. Serve hot with your favourite condiment – I especially like a bowl of soy sauce flavoured with chilli flakes.



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