Leek and rice pilaf: the story of a failed side dish

Last night, some friends of ours (Penny and Shayne) invited us over to their place for dinner. It was a bit of a pot luck so I decided I would bring a vegetable dish to complement the pie that they were making. Vegetable dishes can be difficult to make sometimes – not because they require great skill, but there is an art in selecting a vegetable dish that works well with the main meat dish but doesn’t overpower it.

I have a really useful cookbook for these types of occasion – The New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook by Lauraine Jacobs, Ginny Grant and Kathy Paterson. The book is divided into seasons, making it easy to find recipes that don’t require you to track down expensive vegetables that are out of season.

I wanted something simple to make that didn’t require a lot of preparation or a lot of different types of ingredients. As I was flicking through I found a recipe for a leek and red rice pilaf. It fitted what I was looking for – simple, very few ingredients, tasty and had something that you don’t eat everyday – red rice.

As the leeks were cooking, they developed this vibrant green shine to them. They were rather photogenic if I must say, and I felt quite pleased with myself.

I started to think about the angle for this post and came up with the idea of developing a blog series on dishes that would be perfect to take to a pot luck dinner. I mentally starting preparing a list of requirements that dishes would have to have.

Feeling quite smug that I had come up with an interesting angle for the blog, I checked on my leek pilaf.

It looked terrible.

One of the basic requirements that pot luck dishes should have (or any meal for that matter) is that it should on some level, look appetizing. People should want to eat it.

This looks liked this weird off-green mush with red specks of rice.

I reasoned with myself – surely it would taste delicious. I picked up a teaspoon to try it.


I felt somewhat betrayed. I’m under no illusions that leeks are not exactly the most flavour packed vegetables, but the recipe promised that the red rice would make up for this – complementing the ‘sweet mellow leek’ with the nuttiness of the rice.

There was no way I could bring this to dinner.

I felt terrible, especially as we were already running slightly late. There was no way I could whip something else up and we needed to bring something.

Instead, I admitted defeat. We popped by the supermarket on the way and I bought a delicious, decadent chocolate molten tart. I’ve had this tart before and it is divine.

When we arrived, I discovered that Penny had made some roast vegetables so the absence of my leek pilaf did not leave a gaping hole in the meal. And on the plus side, no one had bought dessert so my tart went down a treat.