I always thought chicory was a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and I wasn’t exactly bowled over. But over the last few years we’ve been working on our relationship. It began with a chance meeting with its cousin radicchio, braised in tomato sauce with pancetta and fennel seeds, we were then formally reintroduced over a cheesy gratin and the love grew from there. Its bitter taste is softened when cooked, when you caramelise it in butter and brown sugar the bitterness and rich, sweet flavours compliment each other perfectly.
The inspiration for this quiche came from a delicious lunch at the Acardi café in Brussels where the menu boasts more varieties of quiche than you can shake a stick at. The Belgians are rather gifted at making delicious dishes out chicons or witloof as they call it so it only seemed right to try their ‘tarte aux chicons’. I resolved to make my own version when I got home (back in October) and, last week, I finally got round to it.
I’ve given a recipe for a beautiful, crumbly thyme pastry which is really worth using for this quiche but if time’s not on your side I’m sure no one will complain if you use a pack of ready-made. The pastry recipe does make a little more than you’ll need; sprinkled with a little parmesan, the trimmings make excellent cheese straws. You can also prepare the pastry and line the dish up to a day in advance if its more convenient.
Caramelised chicory and onion quiche
Serves 4-6 people
For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 125g cold butter (unsalted)
- 1 large egg (cold)
Mix the flour, salt and herbs. In a food processor or with cold hands, rub the butter into the flour mix until the texture resembles breadcrumbs.
Beat the egg and pour into the flour mix, process or stir until the mix comes together into a ball, try not to overwork the dough or it may become tough when baked. You may need a splash of cold water if the dough is too dry. Flatten the ball into a round, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 mins.
Heat the oven to 180°C. Once the pastry has chilled, roll it out to about 3mm thick and line a 25cm quiche dish. Trim off the excess and bake blind for 10 minutes.
For the caramelised chicory and onions:
- 2 bulbs of chicory
- 1 large white onion
- 25g butter
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Cut one chicory in half lengthways then slice in half again, use these bits for decoration on to of the quiche. Slice the other chicory in thick rounds (the leaves will separate out) and discard the hard core. Slice the onion.
In a frying pan heat the butter and sugar until the sugar melts and becomes bubbly. Fry the chicory you plan to use on top of the quiche turning once until golden, set aside. Keep the pan on the heat and add the remaining chicory and onion. Cook over a medium-low heat until soft and browned. Allow to cool.
For the quiche:
- 4 large eggs
- 50ml crème fraîche
- 100g cheddar or another firm cheese, a goat’s cheddar would be great
- salt and pepper
Spread the chicory and onion in the pastry shell. Sprinkle over the cheese and arrange decorative chicory on top.
Beat together the eggs and crème fraîche and pour into the shell. Bake for 35 minutes at 180°C. The centre should still have a light wobble. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.