Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two recipes that taught me to love endives.

    For as far back as I can remember, I've been ambivalent about endives. Chicory, witloof, those little pale green torpedos that come at you under various names. On the one hand, unlike loose floppy lettuce leaves, they don't need much hands-on work, if any. On the other, they can be unappealingly bitter.
    The most I can say on their behalf is that they can survive in the fridge, unloved and unused, for a long time before turning slimy. The other thing is that, this time of year, they're cheap. And my OH is a huge fan of them.
     Endives do occasionally find their way into a salad but mostly all I've done is wrap them in ham. bathe them in a mustard-zapped cheese sauce, and top the dish with grated cheese--usually Cantal--before bunging it in the oven.
     Then, about a week ago, one of the Sunday papers published a piece by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on how to use up your Christmas leftovers--and he wasn't talking about turkey. What appealed to me was a pasta dish. Any dish I can make from memory after a trial run is a keeper--and this one definitely is.

    So here you go:

    Endive Recipe Number One:

    For two people, you need two endives plus about 50 grams of pitted black olives. Chop both of these roughly.
    Once you've put your pasta into merrily boiling water, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and throw in a finely chopped clove of garlic. Give it a couple of minutes, then add the endives and olives. Stir it around until the endives have wilted but still have some crunch. Mix in two or three tablespoons of crème fraîche (sour cream would do, I reckon, or even ordinary whipping cream, just something naughty).
   Toss pasta with sauce, strew with plenty of grated Parmesan. I know this sounds easy but it's honestly  far better than the sum of its parts.

   Endive Recipe Number Two

   Next up, a terrific salad from Thomasina Miers. This looked so scrumptious when I watched her make it on Food Network UK, that I tried it a few days later. The original calls for large, costly scallops. I've since tried it with prawns and it works. I think monkfish would be fine too, and probably skate, each cut into scallop-sized chunks. I've even made it without fish and it's still good (if you take this route, halve the marinade quantities).
      Here's my version of her recipe. This makes a lunch or light supper for two, though you might want to add a baguette. 

       1 tsp cumin seeds
       1 tsp coriander seeds
       1/4 tsp chili flakes
       1 large clove of garlic
       1/4 tsp salt
       2 Tbsp or more olive oil

       A dozen or more large prawns (uncooked and shelled) or 6 to 8 large scallops (or monkfish or even squid, I'm still experimenting)
       2 heads of endive
       2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks (sprinkle with lemon juice to stop them going brown if      
          you're not going to use them immediately)
       1 large orange
       Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves to taste
In a small frying pan, dry roast the cumin, coriander and chili flakes till fragrant. Mash the garlic clove in a mortar, and pound in the roasted spices. Add 2 tsp of the olive oil, and the salt, and keep pounding till you have a thick, smooth-ish paste.

Toss the prawns in half this marinade and leave them for a couple of hours if you can. If you can't, let them sit while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Cut the skin off the orange, and remove the flesh in tidy sections. Squeeze the remains of the orange into a bowl. Whisk in 1 Tbsp olive oil, and the other half of the marinade.

Break the endives into separate leaves, add the orange, toss with the dressing, and divide into two bowls.

Heat a frying pan, and add what's left of the olive oil. Stir fry the prawns just until pink. Divide them between the salads, along with the avocado chunks. Sprinkle with coriander leaves.

This really hits the spot: the sweet spiciness of the prawns, the fleshy avocado, crunchy endive, and tangy orange. Try to get some of each in each bite.  Get all your prep work done beforehand and it comes together in minutes.

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