Chicory

Chicory, in my opinion, is a much underused vegetable. Surprising really, due to its fondness for our British climate, plus the fact that it is one of the few seasonal vegetables that is around for the baron winter months. Also, considering its versatility it really deserves to be championed more than it already is. It holds up well to being cooked, as in the tart below, and is not averse to being braised in a little stock and butter. Uncooked, it’s more pronounced bitter flavour will perk up any leaf salad.

Charred Chicory and Roasted Garlic Tart

Charred Chicory and Roasted Garlic Tart

Some may be put off by chicory’s strong bitter flavour. However when cooked, like in this tart, its bitterness is much more mellow especially when paired alongside rich ingredients such as cheese, cream and eggs.
Though tarts are often time consuming to make the process can be split up to make things easier. The pastry and roasting of garlic can be done earlier in the day and then it just leaves you to cook and assemble the tart closer to meal time. The chicory can be cooked while the pastry is baking, then it is just the simple act of assembling the tart and finishing it off in the oven.
The pastry recipe here is nothing complicated; I just have a few different methods which offer a few safe guards against failure and in my mind this makes an excellent, light and crisp pastry. The key is to keep everything cold. Using a food processor eliminates hot hands, though I do like to add the water by hand as it is far too easy to overwork the pastry in the food processor. I have on occasion kept the butter and flour mix in the fridge for up to an hour so it gets really cold before adding the water. Leaving the butter slightly lumpy allows it to melt and produce steam which lightens the pastry while baking – think a very very rough puff. Once the pastry is made don’t worry if it looks a little crumbly, a rest in the fridge will allow the water to disperse throughout the pastry making it easier to roll out.
Any leftover garlic paste will keep in the fridge, covered, for at least 2 weeks, maybe more. It makes a great addition to risottos and the like, or is delicious simply spread on toast with a little butter for a savoury snack.

Serves: 3 -4
Preparation time: 1hr + hands on time,
Cooking Time: 1-1 ½ hrs.

Ingredients
Pastry – makes one 8” or 20cm Tart Ring.
175g Plain Flour
85g Cold Butter
50g-60g (5-6tbsp) Ice Cold water
½ tsp Salt
Tart
1 Bulb of Garlic
450g – 500g Chicory, red or white or a mixture of both
2 Eggs
250g Cream
25g Parmesan, finely grated

Begin by roasting the garlic. Turn the oven to 200c (fan), wrap the bulb of garlic in foil and roast for at least one hour until the soft and the cloves of garlic have turned a deep golden brown colour. Once roasted leave to cool and then pop the softened cloves of garlic from their skin and blend to a paste, this can be done with the flat side of a knife on a chopping board or in a pestle and mortar.

While the garlic is roasting prepare the pastry. Place 100ml of water in the freezer, add a few ice cubes to speed things up if necessary. Place the flour and salt into a food processor, cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour. Process for 20 – 30 seconds, you want the mix to remain a little lumpy rather than having fine breadcrumbs (aim for lumps of butter around the size of peas, perhaps a bit smaller) Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until the water you placed in the freezer has just begun to ice over. Add 50g/4-5 Tbsps. of water to the flour and butter, mix with your hands until it just comes together, adding more water if necessary. Flatten into a circle, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to rest for at least one hour.

Once rested roll the pastry out into a large circle and place over the tart ring gently easing the pastry into the corners. With the excess pastry overhang, fold it back over the inside edge of the tart ring and press down with your thumb to cut the pastry. You should be left with excess pastry on the inside edge of the tart ring, it will look like a thick crust. With the side of your finger press this excess pastry against the wall of the tart ring, so that the pastry comes up a few millimetres higher than the tart ring. This protects against any shrinkage that might happen in the oven.

Pastry

Allow the pastry to rest for 10-15 minutes, in the fridge if you have space, before lining your pastry case with 4 sheets of cling film and add baking beans or rice anything dry and heavy. Bake in a preheated oven at 175c (fan) for 30 mins, until pale golden in colour.

While the pastry case is baking start to fry the chicory. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Leaving the root on the chicory – it helps to keep the wedges together while cooking – cut the chicory into quarters. Fry for around 3 -4 minutes on each side until golden and slightly charred. As the chicory starts to cook it will begin to fan open so make sure as much of the chicory comes into contact with the pan and gets a charred crust on it as this all adds to the flavour. You may need to cook the chicory in batches. Once cooked transfer to a plate, season with a little salt and pepper and leave to cool

After 30 minutes take the pastry case out of the oven and remove the cling film and beans/rice. Break the 2 eggs into a measuring jug and whisk together. Brush a little of this egg onto the bottom and sides of the tart case and return to the oven for 5mins until golden brown. Take the tart out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 150c.

Add the cream to the remaining egg and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the tart; spread 1 -2tsp’s of the garlic paste over the bottom of the pastry case. Cut the roots from the wedges of chicory and cut each wedge in half. Place the chicory in the tart ring, it should fill the tart almost completely. Place the tart back on the shelf in the oven, and slowly and carefully pour the cream mixture over the top, stopping every now and then to allow it to settle. Finally sprinkle with the parmesan and bake for 35-45mins until just set.

Remove for the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Serve with a green leaf salad or whatever else you fancy.

Printable version: Charred Chicory and Roasted Garlic Tart

Chicory and Grapefruit Salad with Anchovy Dressing

Chicory and Grapefruit Salad

This is a quick and simple salad perfect for seeing in the first few days of spring. The bitterness of the chicory and slight sweetness of the grapefruit, works so well with the oily and salty anchovies.

Serves: 2
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins

Ingredients
1 Pink Grapefruit,
2 Heads of Chicory
6 Anchovy fillets in Oil
60g Rocket
4 fillets of fish, Brown trout works nicely.

To make the dressing; Start by cutting the top and bottom off the grapefruit so you are left with two flat ends. Now follow the shape of the fruit from top to bottom as you slice off the remaining peel. Next, cut out segments of grapefruit by cutting inside the membrane walls, allowing them to drop in to a bowl. In another bowl, squeeze the juice from what remains of the grapefruit. Add 4 tablespoons of this juice into a jam jar. Grind the anchovy fillets to a paste, either with the flat side of a chef’s knife or in a pestle and mortar, and along with 2tbsps of olive oil, add this to the jar. Screw the lid on and shake well, until emulsified. Leave to one side.

Separate the leaves from the heads of chicory and place in a large bowl. Add the rocket and cut the segments of grapefruit into roughly, 1cm sized pieces, add these to the same bowl.

If serving with fish, heat a pan over a medium heat. Fry the fillets for 3-4 mins skin side down, until the edges just start to cook and the skin turns golden. Turn the fish over, remove the pan from the heat and allow the residual heat to cook the fish through.

To finish the salad add the dressing, toss all the ingredients together and serve alongside the fish.

Printable version: Chicory and Grapefruit Salad with Anchovy Dressing

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