Leafy vegetable season is upon us and on of the first local garden ingredients that will show up in the kitchen is chicory. Also called Belgian endive or witlof, is a slightly bitter tasting vegetable that is grown indoors or under ground to prevent sunlight from reaching the plant. The lack of sunlight prevents the plants leaves from turning green. The whiter the leaves are the less bitter they taste. Chicory can be eaten both cooked or raw. I like to cook the chicory in the oven with ham and cheese.
- 3 heads of chicory (about 500 grams total)
- 200 grams ham
- some cheese
- a little sugar
- bread crumbs
The most important thing when preparing chicory is to cut away the inner, solid, part of the chicory head. The center tastes very bitter and has to be removed completely.
Start by cutting the head in half from the top of the head to the base, this will reveal the solid center of the chicory head. Cut the halves once more to end up with four equal quarters. You can now easily cut out the bitter part. Make sure you remove it completely and you will end up with individual leaves.
After a quick wash in cold water, put a single layer of leaves in a slightly greased oven pan and sprinkle with a little sugar.
Repeat until you have used about half of the chicory leaves. Put half of the cut up ham and a little cheese on top.
I’ve put on some slices of cheese, but you can also use grated cheese. Go easy on the cheese, we will put on more later.
Continue layering the rest of the chicory leaves on top, again sprinkling each layer with a little sugar. Finish with the rest of the ham and cover with cheese. A little breadcrumbs sprinkled on top of the cheese will turn it into a crispy crust when baked.
Bake at 180C (360F) for about 20 minutes or until the top looks nice and crispy
Tomatoes will be here soon enough and I’ll more than likely be making some ketchup this summer.