Curried mussels with with witloof
( SERVES 4 )
Witloof is also known as Belgian endive or chicory. Select plump heads that are tightly closed and nearly all white with a tinge of pale yellow. Any with green leaves are likely to be past their best. Witloof keep well in the refrigerator and are best stored in blue plastic to protect them from the light. Their slight bitterness can be a welcome contrast in creamy dishes, and served raw they make a great-tasting salad.
Cooking witloof is a simple affair. If I want to use them as a vegetable, I melt some butter in a pan, tuck the witloof in with a little lemon juice, sugar, salt, then cover them with water. Then I cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and leave them to simmer over a moderate heat for about 30 minutes before removing the lid and turning up the heat. Evaporating the liquid around the softened witloof results in a sauce that is sweet and glossy.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Finely chop the shallots and garlic, then add to the saucepan with the thyme leaves and cook until soft.
- Add the mussels (scrubbed and bearded) and wine, then bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow the mussels to steam for 3 minutes or until the shells open.
- Discard any that do not. Let the mussels cool in the liquid, then remove the meat and set aside, discarding the shells.
- Strain the liquid from the saucepan and reserve.
- Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Remove any imperfect leaves from the witloof and trim the bases.
- Blanch each of the witloof heads in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain and refresh them under cold running water.
- Remove and squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Place the witloof on absorbent paper and pull the leaves from the base. Put the cream, mussel stock and curry powder into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce to a sauce consistency, then check the seasoning, adding salt if required.
- Whisk in the egg yolks, then add the witloof leaves, mussels and their juices to the pan and heat through.
- Do not allow the sauce to boil otherwise the egg yolks may scramble. Remove from the heat and serve.