Sunday, December 9, 2007

Braised chicory with spicy peanut sauce

Chicory is one of those vegetables that no one seems quite sure what to do with. In Spain, it is typically served either raw or only slightly cooked with blue cheese, but I’d have to say that the result manages to be both bitter and bland at the same time. In the following recipe it is braised and then served with a really spicy sauce. If you like it milder, then just reduce the amount of chilli. However, the oiliness of the peanut butter and the coconut balance out the chilli quite well.

This recipe is my version of something first cooked for me by a Canadian friend, Lesley. It's very simple, and the sauce would also go well with all kinds of other vegetables: steamed cauliflower, shredded stir-fried cabbage, braised leeks etc.

4 heads of chicory
stock or water
sunflower oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of chilli powder
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
100 g of good quality smooth peanut butter
½ tin of coconut milk

  1. Remove any brownish outer leaves from the chicory, and cut off the very bottom of them (but don’t cut away too much, otherwise the chicory won’t hold together). Put the chicory heads in a saucepan and just cover with good quality stock or some water. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat to minimum, then simmer until done. (Around 15 minutes.) Turn off the heat, but keep the chicory in the braising liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Peel the garlic, chop it roughly, and then pound it to a paste in a pestle and mortar with a little salt.
  3. Put a little sunflower oil in a saucepan, add the garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds or so, add the chilli powder, stir and fry for a few more seconds.Add the sugar, vinegar and soy sauce, and continue to stir and heat until the sugar is dissolved. 
  4. Add the peanut butter (good quality only – just check the ingredients) and coconut milk and continue to heat while stirring until all the peanut butter is mixed in. If the sauce is a little thick at this point, then add some of the liquid from the chicory.
  5. Place the cooked chicory into the pan with the sauce, reduce the heat to minimum and cook for a couple more minutes.

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