Leek à la Wannée

Leek is such a tasty vegetable: essential when making stock, delicious when prepared in butter and served with a cheese sauce (Sauce Mornay) or when stir fried. Extravagant when served with a dressing (jus de truffe, lemon, mustard) and lots of summer truffle. A popular, tasty, aromatic and very affordable vegetable.

This was also the case in 1910 when Mrs. Wannée published her cookbook. A book dedicated to nutritious and inexpensive food. Or should we say cheap? She was teacher and director of the Amsterdam Huishoudschool, a school for domestic skills, aimed at training future maids and housewives. The book is currently in its 32nd edition and has sold over one million copies. It continues to be a popular cookbook because every new edition reflects the current views on food and nutrition.

We have a copy of the 14th edition (published around 1955?). It is beautifully illustrated (full colour pictures and drawings) and contains 1038 recipes. It probably very much reflects the 1910 style of preparing food. We followed recipe 451 for stewed leek with a corn starch-based sauce. Well, eh, honestly don’t do this at home. The texture of the leek was nice and soft, the taste gone and the sauce bland and gluey. Interesting as experiment but not worth repeating.

The recipe does not mention the use of pepper and/or nutmeg (both fairly obvious choices) which is part of a bigger problem. Another standard Dutch cookbook (Het Haagse Kookboek, first published in 1934) is also known for the very limited use of spices and herbs. Probably it is a reflection of the sober, Calvinist nature of the Dutch in the 19th and 20th century. Price over taste, quantity over quality.

This dominated Dutch cooking for many years. And in some cases it still does. As if Dutch food is over-cooked and under-seasoned.

Nonsense. When you read books by Carolus Battus or Mrs. Marselis you know that Dutch cuisine is absolutely about tasty and interesting food, using various herbs and spices.

What You Don’t Do

Wash and clean the leek. Slice it in 4 – 5 cm chunks. Cook these in salted water for 30 minutes. Drain. Use the liquid and corn starch to make a sauce. Add some butter to make the sauce richer. Transfer the leek back to the sauce and leave for 15 minutes.

We served the leek with organic pork loin in a creamy mustard sauce (yummy!)


A combination of three ingredients that is essential when preparing stocks, stews and sauces: onion, carrot and celery (ratio 2:1:1). It’s intriguing that this combination works so well. All three bring sweetness when cooked, the combination is balanced and it brings depth to the result.

The celery could be a bit confusing: should it be celeriac, the root (knob) or celery, the fibrous stalks? Some suggest using the root in winter and the stalks in summer. We suggest using the stalks in all cases. They are very aromatic and they come with a touch of saltiness, very different from the root.

When for instance you want to make a beef stew, then first sear the beef, remove it from the pan, perhaps add some oil or butter and then add the mirepoix. Leave to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or so or until soft. It’s all about creating flavours and aromas. Make sure you don’t brown the mirepoix. 

Another approach is to add it to (cold) water. This works well when making a white stock. And of course, when you want to make a powerful, tasty vegetable stock.

What You Need

  • 1 Large Onion
  • 3 Celery Stalks
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 Small Tomato
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)

What You Do

In the Netherlands an extended version of Mirepoix is fairly standard: onion, carrot, celery and leek (ratio 1:1:1:1) , also known as WUPS (Wortel, Ui, Prei en Selder). We prefer this version because the leek seems to bring extra flavours. Or perhaps because we’re Dutch?
Clean and dice the celery, the carrot, the leek and the tomato. Peel and chop the onion and the garlic. Add all ingredients and the bouquet garni to a pan with cold water and allow to simmer for one hour or so. Pass through a sieve and decide if you want to reduce the liquid. It freezes very well, so ideal to make ice cubes for use in sauces.

Mirepoix ©cadwu
Mirepoix plus extra ingredients for vegetable stock ©cadwu