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Chicory & Ham Gratin by Nikki Legon

Chicory was accidently discovered by a Belgian farmer in 1830 when his stored roots grew white leaves. Since then the tender, crunchy & slightly bitter leaves have become a popular vegetable...


6 chicory headsrecipe-living-magazine-chicory-ham50g butter
1 tbsp of oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
6 slices of good ham
6 finely chopped bacon slices


75g butter
75g of plain flour
1 litre milk
200g cheese grated
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 160 °C.

2. Remove any withered chicory leaves. Add the sugar to boiling water and blanch the leaves for 3 minutes. Drain and place on a clean tea towel to absorb the moisture; set aside to cool.

3. Make the bechamel: melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Cook, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, using the whisk to avoid lumps forming, then carry on cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes stirring continually with a wooden spoon. Take the sauce off the heat and add 150g of cheese and the grated nutmeg. Season.

4. Roll each chicory in a slice of ham and place it in a dish; cover with the sauce. Quickly fry the bacon and sprinkle on top, along with the rest of the cheese.

5. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top.


Nikki Legon  is the chef and owner of the Hotel  Restaurant Karina in Les Metairies, just outside Jarnac in the Charente. She and her husband Austin have transformed an old cognac distillery into a luxury 10-bedroom hotel and restaurant.

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