Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Orange and Honey Braised Chicory

There are few edible things that test me. I'm a hog at the best of times and not many foodstuffs that grow or walk on our earth are unpleasant to my palate. Not bad considering I was an incredibly fussy eater as a child.

However there is a vegetable that did test me until recently. Chicory, or the Belgian Endive, is one of those vegetables at this time of the year when they are high in season that you see sitting on a superstore shelf with the 'Reduced' tag on it as people tend to walk past wondering what it is. I've been eating them for years having great difficulty coming to terms with their natural bitterness. Often found shredded and tossed in salads with equally pungent ingredients such as blue cheese, walnuts and mustard, I've tried hard to love it and failed miserably.

Right at the core of the chicory sits the predominant bitterness. A sharp knife will remove the core making a much more pleasant vegetable. But braising the vegetable in a liquid makes things much more interesting. And that is what has turned me around to loving chicory like no other. An hour braising in an oven with orange, honey and mustard will caramelise the leaves, sweeten up the core and make for a brilliant bed for such things as poached fish or game.

Never give up on a lost cause is my motto. We aren't always going to instantly fall in love with particular foods no matter how much you love eating. Give it time, experiment with different flavours and cooking techniques and like the chicory with me, you will soon grow to love them.

Orange and Honey Braised Chicory
Serves 2 as an accompaniment

2 heads of chicory, cored and cut in half
2 tbsp olive oil
100ml fresh orange juice
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon or English mustard
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C, GM4.
2 - Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Season the chicory with a little salt and pepper then put them into the pan cut side down. Cook for 2 minutes until it begins to colour.
3 - Pour over the orange and honey and bring to the boil. Stir in the mustard then place in the oven for 45 minutes, turning and basting every now and again.

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...