Commonly known as Belgian endive or Chicory, this crunchy salad leaf is also known as Witlof. It is pale in colour with a slightly bitter and nutty flavour that is super crunchy. You can eat it raw or cooked, but since its summer I wanted to do a salad of sorts with lots of different elements. Vibrant Granny Smith apples, fennel and celery make up the vegetable component, and creamy blue cheese and crispy bacon the savoury and salty part. A few chopped up walnuts add lovely crunch and they go so well with everything else here. Think Waldorf salad. I drizzled over my all-time favourite maple vinaigrette dressing which added sweetness to offset the bitterness.
I met the farmer who grows this vegetable in South Africa and discovered it’s quite a process involving two stages. The root is bigger than the leafy head and has to be planted for a second stage and kept in the dark to prevent chlorophyl development in the leaves. All done hydroponically, this is not a simple plant to grow. I also ate it cooked for the first time in a traditional Belgian dish where it’s wrapped in pancetta and braised to buttery deliciousness and then smothered in a cheesy sauce. So interesting, and this dish can be found on the Den Anker menu in winter months.
The Witlof leaves when picked off their conical-shaped core form the perfect boat like shape to hold the salad in, making it good for finger food to serve at a party or at a BBQ. It’s also kind of like a salad in a salad taco.
I used a Danish style blue, but any great tasting creamy blue such as Gorgonzola will work wonderfully too.
The quantities in the dressing recipe make a little more than is required, but it’s a lovely dressing to use on other salads.
Recipe – serves 4 – 6 people as a side
- 1 head of Witlof / Endive
- 1 ¾ cups Granny Smith apples cut into thin match sticks
- ¼ cup finely shaved fennel
- ¼ cup finely diced celery
- 3 – 4 rashers of bacon, finely chopped and fried until crispy
- About 50gms creamy blue cheese, crumbled
- Small handful walnuts, chopped
- 60ml olive oil
- 30ml good quality white wine vinegar
- 20ml maple syrup (1 Tbs + 1 tsp)
- ½ tsp Dijon
- pinch of sea salt flakes
Get all your salad components ready. Fry the bacon and drain on kitchen paper and chop up all the salad ingredients.
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together until emulsified.
Just before you are ready to serve, peel away the endive leaves. Toss the apple, celery and fennel together with half the chopped nuts. Pour over enough dressing to coat.
Spoon the dressed salad in to the endive leaves and arrange these on a platter or large serving plate.
Sprinkle over the crumbled blue cheese and crispy bacon.
Drizzle over a little more dressing over the salad boats and serve straight away.