Braised Witlof wrapped in Ham Gratin and Béchamel Sauce

This week’s recipe inspiration is Witlof!

This week’s local vegetable hero is local peninsula Witlof. This delicious and versatile (cooking, roasting and salad) vegetable is so tasty and a member of the chicory family which boasts many health properties.

To quote Wikipedia – “Chicory is used as folk medicine in Europe…is recorded as an treatment for everyday ailments. It is variously used as a tonic and as a treatment for gallstones, gastro-enteritis, sinus problems and cuts and bruises. (Howard M. 1987). Chicory also contains inulin, which helps with weight loss, constipation, improving bowel function, and general health.”

A big added bonus is that it is also delicious! If you’ve never tried it before, I have a great recipe below from my favourite TV chef, Justine Schofield and Jake Kellie. When baked or roasted this vegetable caramelises like onion and is just delicious with orange and cheese flavours.

Braised Witlof wrapped in Ham Gratin and Béchamel Sauce

2 – 4 witlof (endive)
Juice of ½ an orange
30g butter
4 slices of double smoked ham/bacon (optional)
¾ cup gruyere (Parmesan or Feta are also good) cheese grated

The Béchamel Sauce
30 g plain flour
30 g butter or margarine
½ litre milk
Salt, nutmeg & pepper

Method: Preheat the oven to grill. Wash your Witlof. Melt butter in a wide braising pan over medium low heat. Quarter or half and lay the Witlof in one layer in the pan. Sprinkle salt, pepper and orange juice over the endive. Cook for 15-20 minutes. A knife stuck easily into the core should tell you they’re done. Remove from pan. Wrap a slice of ham around each witlof and lay them in a baking dish. Pour the béchamel sauce on top of the wrapped witlof and sprinkle the grated cheese all over. Bake it for about 4 minutes until yummy golden brown.

Béchamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a sauce pan at medium heat. Add the flour into the melted butter and stir it well with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until you obtain a mousse like mixture. Stir in the milk a little at a time (make sure it’s well mixed), stir vigorously to avoid getting lumps. When half the milk is incorporated, start adding larger amounts milk, stirring constantly (use a whisk at this stage). Whisk it until it thickens. Season with salt, nutmeg and pepper.

Happy local food eating!