- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Carefully remove 6 outer layers from the leeks and reserve, then thinly slice the remainder.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over a high heat. Cook the outer layers of leek for 3–4 minutes or until softened. Use a draining spoon to remove the leeks, and rinse them under cold water to cool. Set aside. Add the pasta to the pan, bring the water back to the boil and cook for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the sliced leeks over a high heat for 4–5 minutes or until all the liquid they yield has evaporated.
- Purée the fried leeks with the watercress, cottage and Parmesan cheeses, eggs, bread, mustard, nutmeg and seasoning to taste in a food processor or blender. The mixture should be very smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the drained pasta.
- Grease a 1 kg (2 1/4 lb) loaf tin and line it with the strips of leek, overlapping them in the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Use 6 pieces for the main part of the tin and a piece for each end. Allow the excess leek to hang over the edges. Spoon the pasta mixture into the tin. Level the top and fold over the overhanging leeks.
- Grease a piece of foil and use it to cover the tin, pinching it neatly around the edge. Half fill a roasting tin with boiling water, then stand the loaf tin in it. Bake for 1 hour or until the mixture is firm.
- Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan, stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil, vinegar and sugar, and stir to mix. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender or food processor, then press it through a sieve to remove the seeds and skin. Season to taste.
- Remove the loaf tin from the roasting tin of water and leave to stand for 10 minutes, to allow the loaf to set slightly before turning it out of the tin. Slice the loaf and serve the tomato sauce with it. Garnish with watercress.
Some more ideas
Replace the watercress and half of the Parmesan cheese with 3 chopped rashers of smoked back bacon. Fry the bacon in the oil and remove it from the pan before cooking the sliced leeks. Add the bacon to the mixture with the pasta. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. * Cottage cheese with onion and chives can be used instead of plain cottage cheese.
Leeks are part of the onion family. They provide vitamin E as well as vitamin A from the carotene content of their green tops. If eaten regularly, leeks can help to reduce the chance of heart disease and stroke.
Each serving provides
A, calcium * B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, niacin, copper, iron, potassium, selenium