My wild chicory plant in the kitchen garden has loved the hot summer weather this year and each morning it is festooned with sky blue flowers. Sadly they don't last long as by the evening they are over but I am treated to another great show the following morning. I decided to grow it from seed having seen it flourishing by the roadside and I loved the pretty flowers. It's a big plant, well over a metre tall and next year I'll try using the spring leaves in cooking. They taste a little bitter but apparently when cooked you can use them like spinach.
I have grown cultivated Chicory as a vegetable (Radicchio, Sugarloaf and Belgian Endive are all types of chicory) but I've never tried growing Root Chicory before. This is the variety that's used as a coffee substitute. I have nostalgic memories of 'Camp' from when I was younger. Camp Chicory and Coffee Essence originated in Scotland and was produced in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. I like the taste - roasted Chicory root has a sweeter aroma, sort of like caramel or chocolate.
Chicory has been used as a coffee substitute for 2 centuries. It seems it was first roasted in Holland around 1750 and in a short period of time it became a replacement for coffee. In 1766 Frederick the Great banned the imports of coffee into Prussia hoping to bolster sagging beer sales. An innkeeper developed a chicory substitute and manufactured it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were up to 24 factories producing it.
France adopted the practice and in 1806 when Napoleon attempted to make France totally self sufficient chicory replaced coffee there entirely for a while. Today Leroux is Europe's largest chicory producer. Established in France in 1858 it processes 125,000 metric tons of chicory root in Orchies, near the border with Belgium. Their website has some lovely recipes using roasted chicory here.
Roasted Chicory root is also used to add flavour to beers and stouts and there are even a few recipes for making home made liqueurs and wines from it (especially in France). The only commercial Chicory liqueur I know of is produced in Mississippi by the Bottle Tree Beverage Co and is made at Cathead Distillery. It's called Hoodoo and was launched last year.
I love coffee ice cream and have a recipe that is really delicious. I use Camp in it but you can use liquid Chicory essence if you prefer.
Chicory Coffee Ice Cream
4 eggs, separated
100g fine brown sugar
300ml double cream
3 tbsp Camp Coffee (or liquid Chicory essence)
2 tbsp brandy
Add the egg yolks and brown sugar to a bowl and beat until thick. In a separate bowl whip the double cream and add the Camp Coffee (or liquid Chicory essence) and brandy when the mixture begins to thicken. Continue to whip until stiff. Fold the egg yolks and sugar mixture into the whipped cream.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the stiffened egg whites into the egg yolk/cream/ chicory mixture.
Spoon into a container, cover with lid and freeze for 4 – 6 hours until it is firm.
Try serving it with a chilled Sauternes – Baron Philippe Rothschild famously used to serve his Sauternes (a bottle of First Growth Chateau d'Yquem no less) so cold at the end of the meal that it was nearly frozen. It's said that at his chateau, Mouton Rothschild, the d'Yquem used to arrive at table encased in a block of ice which absolutely infuriated the Marquis de Lur Saluces the owner of d'Yquem! Admittedly this is extreme and served this cold you would lose some of its fragrance and flavour but served chilled between 10 – 12ºC Sauternes is lovely with desserts.