You can’t go out into the forest or the fields and find endives, because they aren’t around in nature but farmed in complete darkness! “Belgian Endives” in the US called “chicons”, in French and Europe, “witloof”, in Belgium (also called white gold), “chicory” in English, is a vegetable low in calories (17kcal per 100g), try to find less calories in other veg! The red-leaved, white veined, varieties are frequently called “radicchio”.
One of the reactions on my previous post picture was: “Ideal for soup”. What people don’t realise, is that we use this basket for a week’s food on the table. With each vegetable of the basket, you can make a lovely dish and feed your family. Of course I use some parts of the vegetables to make soup, but I try to use each vegetable to make a healthy daily dish. And this week we got “Belgian endives”, the cave-dweller of the garden, in our basket, my favourite vegetable: a main staple feature of the Belgian cuisine.
An endive weighs about 150g and gives you energy for about 26kcal not even 2% of your daily needs, so your best mate whilst following a diet.
As a Belgian I am proud to say that a Belgian farmer (Jan Lammers) discovered it in 1830. It was common practice in the 19th century to dry and grind chicory roots as a substitute for coffee beans. One day Jan forgot some roots and they sprouted leaves in his damp, dark shed. Jan curious as he was, tasted them and a new veggie was born. By the way chicory coffee still has its devotees to this day.
For Belgians “endive” is a well-known vegetable. One of my best friends’ parents grows this vegetable as a farmer and I used to buy it from them in big cardboard boxes, covered in blue paper. Being married to an Englishman I realised that he never ever ate this vegetable before he married me. What is known and liked in one country, isn’t necessary eaten in another. It is a divisive vegetable a bit like marmite: you like it or you don’t!
Use a mixture of endives, onion, leek and add a sweet apple to the soup.
Braised Belgian endives
People that don’t like Belgian endives will certainly not like them prepared as this next recipe tells you to (you still can taste its typical bitterness), whereas true lovers will tell you: this is the way to make them.
Count 2 endives per person, so 8 if you’re cooking for 4 persons
- One lemon
- Pepper and salt
- Butter to fry
- Cut the base off, make sure not too far so you keep the endive leaves together. Take out a little cone at the base of the endive, as that gives the bitter taste. Take the outer leaves of and wash the veg .
- Melt butter in a pan.
- Add the endives, add pepper and salt.
- Brown them in the pan on each side.
- Add the juice of a lemon/lime and some water to avoid burning, turn regularly, and let them simmer till their colour changes to grey and they’ve become soft and all the water is gone. I often use a pressure cooker to save time.
Endives as a salad:
- 2 endives
- 1 or 2 apples depending on the taste
Most people prefer them raw, cut up in small pieces with an apple in small pieces added and mayonaise. A few nuts scattered in this salad are also super nice. A nice cold salad (available from autumn right through, till early spring), to go with any meal.
Get to know Belgian endives with the help of cheese: Endives with cheese and ham
The other way to make them is the following (also liked by most people as the taste of the endive is hidden in the sauce):
- 1 fat endive per person
- 1 slice of ham per person
- Ingredients for a white or cheese sauce
- Fry them as told in the first recipe, with added pepper and salt .
- Then cover them in water and boil them till they are soft.
- Make a cheese sauce or simple white sauce in the mean time. I use the boiling water of the endive to make my sauce, but for people that are not too fond of endive use milk. Ass I had lovely blue cheese and we like it, I made my sauce with blue cheese, but grated cheese will do just as well.
- Per piece of endive you’ll need a slice of ham.
- Drain the endives and roll each one in a slice of ham, you can sprinkle some paprika on the ham before you roll the chicory in there.
- Put them in an oven dish and pour over the white or cheese sauce.
- Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, grated cheese and small butter dice, end with grated cheese on top.
- A good 20 min in an oven (about 200°) till you have a nice cheesy crust.
- Lovely with a good old fashioned puree.
Endive roquefort tart (for people who like blue cheese only)
Recipe suggested by the French in the weekly basket of fruit and veg:
cooking time: 40 min / preparation: 20 min
- 1.2kg chicory
- 1 pastry (pate feuilletée)
- 125g Roquefort
- 70 g of butter
- juice of one lemon
- 1 soupspoon of brown sugar
- salt and pepper
- Cut the endives in two, lengthwise, and take the center part out (that gives the typical bitter taste).
- Heat up 50g of butter and put the half the endives on it.
- Add salt and pepper and juice them with the lemon.
- Cover and on average heat let them “simmer” for about 15 minutes. Halfway through the process: turn them!
- Preheat your oven at 200°.
- Butter an oven dish of 26cm.
- Put cubes of Roquefort on it and sprinkle the sugar.
- Place the endives one next to the other (quite close).
- Add the rest of the Roquefort cut in long strips.
- Cover with pastry and push it softly towards the side of the oven dish.
- Leave it in the oven for about 25 min, the pastry has to be golden brown. Then take it out of the oven and let it rest for a small 5 min before turning it upside down on a dish.
Several methods to grow endives:
- Planted early in the year on the fields, the roots are harvested in October/November. The green leaves are cut off (only a bit of green is left on top of the root). Either the roots are roasted to make chicory (to be used instead of coffee) or for endives, the roots are put in the ground (close to one another) and covered with earth. Round heated metal bows make that the roots sprout in the dark, pushing heir way through the earth and thus create the white endives. Once fully grown, the crop is cut off and the roots are either thrown away or sold as animal food.
- The same system is used in covered barns but the roots are covered with carpets (less dirty earth to clean off, less loss of outer leaves, easier to work for the farmers as they work inside).
- In the 70’s the hydro culture became the new way: once recovered from the fields, the roots are put in wooden crates (1.5 m on 1.5m), layered with plastic (easier for the farmer working on his height instead of on his knees) and put one on top of the other in cold storages. An irrigation system, heating, and necessary nutrients, are regulated by computer. Three weeks later the harvest can begin.
Do give them a try but don’t buy any that have any tinge of green; they will taste bitter. Choose crisp, firm ones, with a compact head, you can keep them 3 weeks in the fridge instead of having to use them the same day you buy them.
Even deprived of light, wonderful things do grow!
With Belgium in my thoughts, saying goodbye,
This versatile vegetable offers 1g of fibers per 100g of vegetable, 1% of proteins, 2.5% of carbohydrates, and only 0,2% lipids. Fibers are an asset for your health, fighting constipation and cutting the hungry feeling. On top of that they are a good source of B9 (folic acid), a vitamin essential for the constitution of red blood cells, the DNA of muscle and bone cells. Pregnant women need this vitamin to develop the nervous system of their embryo. Even vitamin C and a bit of the pro-vitamin A are found in this jewel. Manganese and selenium, two oligo-elements, real anti-oxidants, that will protect cells against oxidative stress and important in the prevention of cancer are also present.