Late autumn and winter is endive season, a weird vegetable that most people in Australia have no clue what it is let alone how it might be used but to many Europeans it is a winter delicacy few can go without. There are basically two types of endives – green endives, resembling a frilly lettuce and what some call Belgium endives (witloof), a small white/yellow acorn shaped leafy plant.
Both have a similar taste (slightly bitter) and both are generally used in a salad. It is closely related to rocket (arugula), chicory and spinach. In fact here in Australia many people substitute the ‘family relation’ plants for the real thing, as it is difficult to find endives commercially available in stores.
In most Italian households, it is used to create a warm salad which might be an entree to start a meal or more commonly used as a side dish to accompany a main meal but in the Little Hill Farm kitchen, we rarely do things by halves – Antonio and I both adore this humble little plant filled so many vitamins, minerals and fibre that Antonio has over the years turned it into a main meal to be had all by itself.
I might not look sexy but trust me, the taste is to die for – it has come to symbolises the ultimate winter comfort food for us, able to always create euphoric delight and we hope it will do the same for you.
Makes – 4 to 6 serves as an entree
2 or 3 endive heads or rocket/chicory heads (washed, cleaned and segmented)
4 potatoes (peeled)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 chilli (finely sliced) – optional
1 teaspoon dry basil
1 teaspoon dry oregano
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place a large pot on the stove (a third filled with water) and add a good pinch of salt.
2. Clean and segmented endive and place in the water together with whole peeled potatoes. Bring to boil and cook for 20 – 30 minutes until endives have wilted and become very soft and the potatoes are cooked.
3. Once cooked allow the endives and potatoes to sit in the hot water and let the pot cool.
4. When ready to prepare final dish. Discard water from pot, place potatoes on a plate and roughly mash.
5. Take handfuls of the endive between your hands and gently squeeze the mass so that most of the water is removed. Place on mashed potatoes and repeat with remaining endives.
If the endives are still too hot to handle with hands – fill pot with cold water and cool.
6. Once potatoes are mashed and all the endives has been drained, place garlic, chilli and oil in a heavy based pan and heat.
7. When garlic and chilli begin to sizzle, break up endive pulp and place into the pan. Stir all the ingredients so the endives are covered with the oil, garlic and chilli mix and allow to heat through (5 minutes).
8. Add potatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and stir.
9. Allow the mixture to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick too much to the base of the pan.
10. Spoon into a bowl and serve with crusty bread or use as side dish to a main meal .
To convert the above into a main meal try adding some of the following:
- thin slices of freshly pan fried – beef, pork, lamb or chicken folded through mash,
- fold through chunks of left over roast meats or vegetables,
- add cannellini, bertolli or kidney beans,
- add slices of pan fried chorizo, Italian semi-dried sausage or crispy bacon pieces,
- add toasted bread croutons.
- add cubes of mozzarella or gruyere cheese
If you can’t get endives feel free to use rocket, chicory, spinach, chard, kale or cavolo nero (Tuscan kale). Depending on which substitute is used, it is possible to make this dish without the pre-cooking step. Rocket, spinach and cavolo nero can be wilted in the pan without pre-cooking.
Also be mindful that if you use a substitute, they each give the final dish a slightly different flavour but they all taste good.