Rosemary Shrager

THIS MONTH, OUR CELEBRITY CHEF ROSEMARY SHRAGER IS EMBRACING SPRING WITH SOME DELICIOUS CHICORY…

This is such a good month for me – I’m shooting the photography for my new book, which will be coming out in October, so am trying to get as many photos in as possible.

I’m still on my health kick and feel so much better for it, eating three meals a day and being mindful of what I’m putting in my body, while also making sure that I always check the fat and sugar content. I’m more energetic, look a lot healthier, and feel much lighter, as if I have a spring in my step. People have seen me go up and down on the box, but I really do feel like this is one that I can sustain. I’ll keep you posted!

Now that spring is underway, we have the first of the Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus. One of my other favourite vegetables for salads is chicory, which is an acquired taste to a lot of people. It has a bitter, but very fresh taste – just add a little sweetness to it and it transforms into the most delicious salad. I cut mine in half lengthways and slowly fry it until it’s browned on both sides, then finish off with a little lemon and butter, and maybe some honey, serving with chicken or duck breast.

A little history behind the chicory; common chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant, the leaves of which are included in salads, while the roots are used in some countries as a substitute for coffee. It has blue flowers like a small daisy, and is mostly found in Europe, but also in other parts of the world. The chicory we’re used to seeing, however, are the Belgian and Radicchio varieties.

The Belgian chicory (also referred to as an ‘endive’) is Dutch and known as ‘Witloof ’, which means ‘white leaf ’ – I know, it’s all very confusing! To stay white, it’s grown underground, just exposing the tip, plus it also has tight leaves, which is ideal for cooking.

Also known as a ‘red endive’, Radicchio chicory usually has variegated leaves and a bitter taste, making it delicious when roasted with a little balsamic vinegar, or included in a salad.
What I find interesting is that the fresh root of the Belgian endive contains 20% insulin, which can only be good. Not only is it used as a coffee substitute, but it’s included in some beers (mostly stouts) to add flavour too, a practice mainly followed in Belgium.

The root itself is used in alternative medicine. I’ve read that it may help with weight loss and can improve bowl functions. This is a big statement, and I don’t know enough about it to comment, but I do understand that anything with as much insulin as 20% has to be good. I think we can say that the jury is out on this one, but I for one definitely won’t stop eating chicory any time soon.

BRAISED ENDIVE [SERVES 4]

INGREDIENTS

✩ 2 endives (chicory)
✩ 75g butter, melted
✩ Salt and pepper
✩ A good drizzle of honey
✩ Juice of ½ a lemon

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Cut the endives lengthways, making sure that the root is still attached. Put it on its back, place into a gratin dish, and brush with plenty of melted butter, before seasoning well. Put into the oven covered with tinfoil and cook for approximately 40 minutes.

A lot of water comes out during cooking, so you need to drain them and put them into a dry gratin dish. Brush with a little more butter, a drizzle of honey and the lemon juice, then place back into the oven for a further 20 minutes uncovered, and serve.