Chicory or Endive

Method

Chicory and endive are the same thing, a slightly bitter-tasting, tight-leafed vegetable that looks a bit like a smaller version of a Chinese cabbage. The more common white-leaved variety is produced by being forced in darkness, a technique first used in Belgium in the 1840s, and where it is called witloof. There are Italian red-leaf varieties too, like rossa di Treviso, which taste very like the white. Chicory can be blanched like cabbage, but we think it is nicest braised in butter in the oven.

Allow one head per person and wash carefully in plenty of cold water, because they are grown in sand. Cut a wedge out of the stalk end of each to help even cooking and arrange in a buttered ovenproof dish which will just hold them packed tightly, dot the top with butter, squeeze over the juice of 2 lemons, and season. Some recipes specify the use of sugar, but the lemon actually cuts the bitterness very effectively. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 160°C/325°F/gas 3 for about 1 hour, until golden brown.

These are also very good in a béchamel sauce, with or without strips of ham, and finished under a grill with a cheese-and-crumb gratin.