‘Endive is one of the great consolations of winter. I adore it crisp and bitter in salads, particularly when coated in a shallot-and-sherry vinegar dressing and tossed with nuggets of blue cheese. I found it difficult to stray from this classic until I came across the following recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It takes no time to put together, and makes an impressive starter. Or you could just rustle it up for supper at home with a green salad, cheese and some fruit to follow. The caramelised juices of the endive go superbly with the ham. Try it with unbelievably sweet pata negra ham for a decadent treat’

Thomasina Miers

Caramelised endive with Serrano ham

Extract from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Published in 2008 by Ebury Press

Serves 6

Nir Feller, who’s got the most infectious zeal for food, helped develop this dish when running our kitchen in Notting Hill. It’s ideal for preparing ahead of time. Have it ready in the baking dish and put it in the oven when you need it. It makes an impressive starter for a cold winter night.

Ingredients

6 endives, cut in half lengthways
40g unsalted butter
4tsp caster sugar
50g sourdough breadcrumbs
70g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2tbsp thyme leaves
120ml whipping cream
12 thin slices of Serrano ham
Olive oil for drizzling
2tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Coarse sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Begin by caramelising the endive. You will probably have to do it in 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your largest frying pan; the endive halves need to fit lying flat without overlapping. If working in two batches, put half the butter and half the sugar in the pan and place over a high heat.

Stir to mix. As soon as the butter starts to bubble, place six endive halves facing down in the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes, until golden. You might need to press them down slightly. Don’t worry if the butter goes slightly brown. Remove and repeat the process with the remaining butter, sugar and six endive halves.

Line a tray with baking parchment and arrange the endives on it, caramelised side up. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, thyme, cream, a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spoon this mixture over the endives and top each one with a slice of ham. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the endives feel soft when poked with a knife. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped parsley, if using.