I meant to post this a week or so ago, but isn’t it always amazing how the run-up to Christmas just gets totally out of hand? Here I am, on the eve of Christmas Eve, and I haven’t yet made our pudding, collected our bird, or wrapped any presents… Instead, I’m still busy baking for friends and neighbours and, er, blogging!
I know many people profess to loathe sprouts (I’m not one of them, as it happens), so I thought it might help if I dug out a recipe for a festive alternative. What follows is a zesty, fresh-tasting take on chicory that makes a great accompaniment to richer meats, especially the more fatty birds such as duck and goose.
The recipe comes from the rather brilliant ‘Today’s Special’, by Anthony Demetre – chef of the critically acclaimed Arbutus restaurant and its siblings. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas or New Year present for a food lover, I heartily recommend it.
Anyway, to business… You’ll need:
75g butter (I used salted)
Splash of olive oil
4 heads of chicory, split lengthways
zest and juice of 2 oranges
10 juniper berries, crushed
sprig of thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 130C/Gas 1.
In a heavy-based gratin or deep roasting pan, heat 50g of the butter and the olive oil, and colour the chicory all over until it’s nicely golden brown – this will take about 5 minutes or so. Add 100ml water and all the remaining ingredients (except the butter), and bring the lot to the boil. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until the chicory is soft and tender.
Remove from the oven, and take the chicory out of the pan and set aside in a warm (not hot) place. Boil the leftover juices until syrupy, add the remaining butter (this will make the sauce glossy), and add the chicory back.
Check seasoning, and adjust according to taste. You may also find that you want to add a teaspoon or two of light muscovado sugar to the sauce just to take the edge off any bitterness.
Serve and enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas!