Chef's Recipes

Burnt leeks with sesame seed sauce

By cooking leeks whole - tough outer layers and all - you achieve a wonderfully tender result with the flesh inside.

  • 40 mins preparation
  • 30 mins cooking plus setting, preparing embers, cooling
  • Serves 4
  • Print
"This dish uses whole leeks that you burn the hell out of. Actually burn them - you're burning the outside and cooking the inside," says Mat Lindsay. "When you serve them, pull out the soft, sweet, smoky leek hearts and top with sesame sauce and breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch. This is similar to a Catalan dish where calçot onions are charred, wrapped and steamed in newspaper, then peeled and dipped in hazelnut sauce."
Begin this recipe a day ahead to make the sesame sauce.


  • 35 gm (½ cup) crustless sourdough bread, torn
  • 4 large leeks, just the darkest green parts of the tops trimmed (reserve tops from 1 leek)
Sesame seed sauce
  • 125 gm roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp honey, or to taste
Verjuice dressing
  • 2½ tbsp verjuice
  • 1½ tsp caster sugar
  • 1¼ tsp brown rice vinegar (see note)
  • 1¼ tsp lemon juice


  • 1
    For sesame seed sauce, blend sesame seeds and 160ml water with a hand-held blender on high speed until smooth (5 minutes). Refrigerate overnight to soften. The next day, blend mixture again until completely smooth, season with honey to taste, being careful not to make it too sweet, and 1½ tsp sea salt flakes. Add xanthan gum a small pinch at a time, blending and checking the thickness between additions until sauce just holds without spreading. Pass through a fine mesh strainer, cover and refrigerate until required.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake bread on a baking tray until crisp and dry (15-20 minutes), cool, then process in a food processor to fine crumbs.
  • 3
    For verjuice dressing, stir ingredients in a bowl with ¼ tsp salt until sugar dissolves.
  • 4
    Preheat a charcoal barbecue until flames almost die down or preheat a gas barbecue to high heat. Char reserved leek tops in a single layer, turning frequently, until completely burnt and dry (4-8 minutes), cool, then grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle.
  • 5
    Grill whole leeks, turning occasionally until completely black, starting to split open at the base and releasing a little juice (10-15 minutes). Transfer to a heatproof container just large enough to fit them all snugly, cover with foil and set aside to cool to room temperature; they'll soften and become sweeter and smokier (40 minutes to 1 hour; you can also just wrap the leeks in foil).
  • 6
    Split open and peel back the burnt layers of leeks to reveal the cooked hearts. Slice hearts into bite-sized pieces, dress with verjuice dressing, then with sesame seed sauce. Sprinkle with some leek ash and breadcrumbs and serve.


Xanthan gum is a stabilising agent available from health-food shops. Brown rice vinegar is available from Japanese grocers and select health-food shops
Drink Suggestion: The Other Right viognier, Adelaide Hills. Drink suggestion by Julien Dromgool