Also known as ‘Witloof’ and ‘Endive’, Chicory (Chichorium Intybus) is a superbly versatile root vegetable. It’s available 52 weeks of the year, grown in the UK, in both red and white (yellow-tinged) varieties.
A popular misconception about chicory is that it has an inherently bitter flavour. The vegetable’s root is indeed bitter, and the leaf flavour is affected by light – the more light it has and the more colour in the leaves then the stronger the flavour will be. However, in the UK, chicory is grown in dark rooms to ensure a smooth, distinctive flavour without too much bitterness.
Very popular on the continent, chicory is growing in awareness in the UK. It has proven probiotic properties, promoting good bacteria, and contains just 1 calory per leaf. It’s also a good source of inulin (dietary fibre) and Vitamin B.
How to Use
Chicory can be eaten raw or cooked. Use the leaves in salads or as decorative canapé holders. Alternatively the heads can be sliced and braised or sautéed and used as an accompanying vegetable or as an ingredient in most recipes and soups.
How to Prepare
Keep your chicory cool and in the dark. The best place is in the fridge. The chicory head is sensitive to light and will develop further colour and a bitter flavour if left in the light.
Simply peel the leaves off and use in a salad or chop and saute as a vegetable. To minimise any bitterness encountered, cut out the hard white core part of the leaf.
How to Cook
Use raw in salads and sandwiches, or cook by sautéing or braising for best effect. When cooking, a squeeze of lemon juice will help keep its pale colour. Chicory can also be baked, put in a soufflé or turned into a soup.
How to Store
Store in the fridge - most important is to keep chicory in the dark to avoid it developing a bitter flavour.