There are few vegetables that have different names in the UK, the US, and Australia, but witlof is one of them. Witlof is what it’s called in Australia and the Netherlands, but it is called Belgian Endive in the US and Chicory in the UK. In this post I’m going to stick to witlof, as this is a Dutch salad.
A witlof salad with mandarins and walnuts is a very homey Dutch dish, that is often made with canned mandarins and store-bought dressing. As such it is okay but nothing special. With a few touches I’ve transformed it into something a lot better: using fresh mandarins rather than from a can, toasting the walnuts, and making my own dressing with fresh mandarin juice and zest, honey and walnut oil.
One of the keys to this is the use of fresh mandarins, as they have a much more interesting flavor than their canned cousins. The only problem is how to get rid of all the white pith. It takes a lot of time and patience to painstakingly remove the white pith with your finger nails or a knife. All the recipes I found online insist that the white pith should be removed, but they do not offer a quick and easy way to do this. Wikipedia told me that the white pith is removed prior to canning by scalding in hot water and submerging the mandarins in a lye solution. This inspired me to try scalding the madarin segments in hot water to which I had added some baking powder to make it alkaline (just like lye). It worked like a charm: most of the white pith could now be easily removed and the mandarin segments tasted great this way.
500 grams (1.1 lbs) witlof / chicory / Belgian endive
80 grams (1/2 cup) walnuts
5 Tbsp walnut oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp baking powder
Bring about half a litre (two cups) of water to which you have added a teaspoon of baking powder to a boil. Scald each mandarin for about 10 seconds or enough to soften the white pith without cooking the mandarin too much.
This pairs well with a riesling because of the citrus. It depends on the bitterness of the witlof (which can vary quite a bit) and the bitterness of the riesling (which can also vary quite a bit from riesling to riesling) how well the pairing will turn out to be.