Saturday, 2 March 2013

Parmesan roasted chicory

Chicory is very underrated. We don't eat much of it here and it mostly seems to get sliced into salads. Its slightly bitter taste may be a reason for its unpopularity - across the Channel it's eaten widely and braising or roasting it mellows the bitterness and wilts the leaves into a soft, lush heap.

This very simple dish has only three ingredients and is surprisingly filling. I usually make it as a standalone meal but if I'm really hungry I'll grill a lamb chop to accompany.

What you need:
2-3 chicory heads
Olive oil
About 1 tbsp grated Parmesan

What to do:
Heat the oven to 180C. Halve the chicory heads lengthways and put cut side up in an oven dish. Drizzle over a little oil and season lightly. Cover with tin foil or a lid and bake for 30 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle over the Parmesan and return to the oven uncovered for another 30-40 minutes until the chicory has caramelised round the edges and the cheese has formed a crispy golden crust.

Cook's tips:
Make sure the chicory, either white or red, is super-fresh. Once it's on the turn it becomes more bitter. 

For a more substantial meal, you can add some chopped bacon or lardons before you put the Parmesan on. You can gratinée it by mixing the cheese with breadcrumbs.

You can roast fennel this way too - use 2 small bulbs halved or 1 large one quartered. Fennel is a natural partner for pork and good quality sausages are a good match here - you can roast them in the dish with the fennel once the foil is off.