Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Early veg - seasons first. Witloof in mushroom sauce with chicon salad

This time of the year there tends not to be much in the garden.It is sometimes referred to as the hunger gap, the space between last years harvest and this years crop.
But with some planning you can have fresh food from the garden all year round, its just a question of working with the seasons.

In addition to spring cabbage, Kale's and leeks, last November I set up endive or chicory roots to force into Chicons.
The type was Witloof, one I am familiar with from my time in the Netherlands.
The seeds were hard to find but I finally sourced them from Garden Plants by Post in limerick.

This is a great veg, already it has provided summer greens for salads and potato dishes last summer, now it provides a salad and a hearty warm meal. Now the roots could be roasted and added to coffee! One pack of seeds, three uses over 7 months.

The recipe is based on a meal I had in Ghent, Belgium, and it is a fairly common dish there.
I had two types of chicon, one Witloof, the other radichio.
The Witloof grew very well over the mild winter despite little attention or care - the radichio was smaller.

This meal was designed to show off both of them, a warmed witloof complimented by a radichio koolsla on the side.

Coleslaw comes from the German or Dutch Kool-sla, literally cabbage salad. This is not the soggy mayonaise soaked lump we get here, but a fresh and very healthy winter salad.
As I have tried to demonstrate with other recipes and processes like zuurkool/ kapusta kizona/Chacroute there are so many more ways to work with cabbage and greens than just boiling them.

Anyway, first things first - the main part.
Preheat oven to 180, while its warming up you can get the rest ready.
Ingredients are very simple,
Some chicons - one per person,
ham slices, two per chicon.
Tsp mustard
I found and added some sea corriander, but cilantro or corriander will do.

Remove any damaged outer leaves from chicon.
Overlap two slices of ham.
Spread with a little mustard
Optional - Add finely chopped herb of choice 
Now, roll the chion into the ham, creating a wrap.
Secure with a tooth pick. Transfer to a shallow oven dish.
Next we do a quick sauce. You will need
75 grams grated cheese
200ml milk
Tablespoon flour
Knob of butter.
Fresh Chives, finely chopped
Herb cutter, demi luna and board - a gift to myself from Joyces in Recess, Connemara.

Chop the mushrooms and sautee in a pot
When sweated and slightly browned add the flour and work into a roux.
Add the milk and grated cheese - reserve some of the cheese to sprinkle over the dish.
When the sauce thickens add the chives and stir in, pour over the prepared chicons, sprinkle over a little cheese and chuck in the oven for 20 minute.

In the meantime you can get your real coleslaw made.
Finely slice your chicon.
Get the top half of a small winter cabbage - remove any part of the core, its the leaves only that you want.
Slice into ribbons, very fine.
Take a carrot, grate - or as I prefer, use a potato peeler to create broad ribbons.
Mix together.
Add some raisins or grated apple if you have it - wallnut is also very nice in the mix and this is a great, fresh, crunchy salad.With the honey in the dressing it helps compliment the slight bitterness of the chicon.

Dressing is
a teaspoon of mustard,
 pressed clove of garlic,
salt and pepper
A teaspoon of carroway seed well pounded
A teaspoon of honey.
Add this to 200 ml Donegal rapessed oil and 50ml cider vinegar and shake well.
Pour over mixed salad and toss well.
With the colours, a bit of fresh chopped parsely as a garnish looks great as well
Remove the chicons from the oven, serve with the coleslaw and rice if you wish.

With this meal itself the salad tastes wonderfully fresh and crunchy with those bitter and sweet flavours, and add to that the rich, smooth warming mushroom/cheese/chive sauce with the crunchy cooked witloof.
The raw cabbage I am told is very good for you, full of fibre vitamins etc - but I really do cook for taste as opposed to health.
And, at this time of year it is incredibly rewarding to be able to produce a meal with so many veg still fresh from the garden.

As always feedback is very welcome - any suggestions for additions or ommissions are appreciated.

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