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Recipe: Chicory Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad

Chickory is on the menu for Jane Lovett's last recipe column in The Journal where she opts for one of her top 10 favourites

Chicory Blue Cheese & Walnut
Chicory Blue Cheese & Walnut

After two and half years this is very sadly (for me!) my last column in The Journal.

Being a one man band I am finding it increasingly hard to juggle the various aspects of my cooking life, so I am having a bit of a restructure in an attempt to avoid total meltdown.

I will still be running cookery demonstrations from my home and other locations in the North East, as well as further afield.

I have very much enjoyed my time with The Journal and indeed was delighted to be asked to write musings and recipes incorporating and highlighting the numerous and wonderful local artisan producers we are lucky enough to have in the North East.

I hope you might have been inspired to make the odd recipe or two and enjoyed cooking them if you did – and, more importantly, eating them.

If just one recipe has won a place in your repertoire I would be thrilled.

On that note, my last recipe on these pages can hardly be described as a recipe, and definitely features in the top 10 favourites of my own repertoire.

As we all know, sometimes the simplest things are best.

Chicory is one of my favourite winter vegetables, either cooked or just as a salad leaf, and this wonderful recipe for Chicory Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad is one of my favourite winter starters or salads. So much so, we are eating it non-stop at the moment – it’s lucky then, that Himself shares my passion for it.

This is a pattern that I have repeated over the years – I get a taste for something, eat it continually to the point of over-dosing and then can’t face eating it again for a very long time.

Two cases in point from many years gone by are puff-ball mushrooms and tuna steaks, both of which I still can’t face.

But I honestly don’t think I could ever tire of this salad.

Chicory is imported all year round but British chicory is only in season between January and March and is perfect for eating at this time of year with its crisp, clean, refreshing texture and slightly bitter taste. The tips of the leaves should be pale yellow rather than green, as the latter tend to be very bitter.

Chicory heads are forced, either underground or in a cool, dark place, which keeps them white – hence their Belgian name Witloof, meaning white leaf.

Just to confuse, the French call chicory ‘endive’; which is in fact what we call the large flat bitter green frizzy, pale hearted lettuce, and that they call chicory. Hope you’re keeping up?

Don’t be put off by the salad bit – salads aren’t just for summer and this is hearty and gutsy as well as refreshing and cleansing.

Substitute the creamier blue cheeses with Stilton if you have some left over, or Ribblesdale Blue which is a delicious goat’s cheese from the Yorkshire Dales Cheese Company www.yorkshiredalescheese.co.uk. Roquefort would be good too.

 * Dates, details and booking for Jane’s Easy Summer Eating demonstrations in June can be found at www.janelovett.com

Jane will be demonstrating Easy Easter Recipes in Chatton Village Hall on April 10. Tickets £20 available from www.janelovett.com

Jane’s book Make it Easy is available from bookshops and Amazon. Follow Jane on Twitter @ Jane_Lovett

RECIPE: CHICORY BLUE CHEESE AND WALNUT SALAD

This delicious salad has a wonderful crisp, clean flavour and is very refreshing. The slight bitterness of the chicory is offset by the blue cheese and walnuts.

Serves four as a starter or two as a main course 

Ingredients

2 large heads of chicory

85 g (3 oz) creamy blue cheese such as Dolcelatte or Gorgonzola

a handful of watercress

a handful of walnut halves or pieces

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

walnut or olive oil

Method

1 Discard any tatty damaged outer leaves from the chicory. Separate some of the outer leaves and arrange four or five whole leaves on each of four large plates, if serving as a starter, or two plates for a main course.
Thinly slice the remaining chicory hearts vertically and scatter the slices around the plates.

2 Crumble over the blue cheese followed by the walnuts and nestle a few sprigs of watercress artistically in-between
the chicory.

3 Just before serving sprinkle with sea salt, a grinding of black pepper and a swirl or two of walnut oil.

Get-Ahead

Prepare to the end of Step 2 up to 2 hours in advance.

Hints and Tips

Stilton, Ribblesdale Blue or Roquefort cheese can be used instead of the creamier blue cheeses.

Chicken and blue cheese are delicious together, so for a more substantial lunch or supper, roast chicken legs rubbed with olive oil and salt for ½ hr in a hot oven, until golden and crispy. Some crusty bread would also be good for mopping up purposes.

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