Gratin d’Endive Caramélisé

Panic not, dear reader, you have not gone to the wrong blog by mistake… I cooked something new for lunch today and thought it would be nice to share the recipe.

Endive, or chicory as it is better known in Britain, tends to get a bit of a bad press. We think of it as bitter and unpleasant. Aubergines used to have a similar reputation. But, both vegetables have benefited from the art of the growing expert and are now much more palatable. You can ignore those recipes that tell you to salt your sliced aubergines to leach out the bitterness: totally unnecessary!

Back to endive. I’ve seen it in the shops and markets quite a bit hereEndive but have never usd it before. So, I thought it was about time I gave it a go! I did a bit of recipe browsing on the internet for ideas and, as is my usual practice, came up with an idea of my own that drew on various inspirations. Early this morning it was off to the local marché to buy some fresh French endives, amongst other things. So, then, the recipe…

Ingredients (for 2)
4 to 6 endive heads
Waxy/salad potatoes (quantity to taste)
Smoked bacon lardons
Olive oil
Butter (unsalted)
Sugar (brown if you have it)
Few sprigs of thyme
Cheese sauce (300 to 500ml)
Grated cheese (eg Comté)
Small amount of crusty bread


  1. Cut the potatoes into 1cm to 2cm irregular pieces, dry the pieces in kitchen towel and fry in olive oil in a frying pan. Put the oven on to around 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. When the potatoes are beginning to brown, add the lardons. Continue until the potatoes are nicely browned and the lardons are starting to crisp up. Transfer the mix (but not the oil and bacon fat) into an oven dish (I used a Pyrex one) and put into the oven.
  3. Remove any nasty leaves from the endive heads and cut in half lengthways. Put into the frying pan (with the oil and bacon fat) cut-side down. Add a knob of butter and 4-6 teaspoons of sugar (to help the endive caramelise).
  4. When the flat side of the endive is nicely caramelised and brown, turn over. Remove the leaves from the thyme stalks, chop the leaves finely and sprinkle into the pan. Turn occasionally as needed.
  5. While the endive is cooking, make some cheese sauce. I really like cheese sauce, so you’d probably use a bit less than me! My preferred method is to use a mix of cornflour, water and Dijon mustard (brings out the cheese flavour) to thicken hot milk, then add grated Parmesan and Comté cheeses (roughly 50/50), with half a dozen grinds of black pepper (no salt). The sauce needs to be quite thick.
  6. When the endive is nearly cooked, tear some nice crusty bread into small pieces (a handful, say) and add to the pan. Stir to allow the bread to soak up the fat and juices and begin to fry.
  7. Switch the oven to “grill” setting and turn the heat up to max.
  8. Transfer the mix from the frying pan into the oven dish, mix. Add a few grinds of black pepper (but no salt, because of the bacon and cheese). Here’s what mine looked like (the endive was browner than it looks in the photo, really!):
  9. Pour over the cheese sauce, covering all the mix. scatter the grated cheese over the top and put the dish back into the oven.
  10. When the gratin is nicely browned and bubbling, serve!

Endive is still a bit of a personal taste. I really enjoyed this, Joanna wasn’t so enthusiastic!


The Bluebells Of Verrières

On Thursday  I didn’t have any afternoon classes, so was able to take off for a lovely refreshing, reinvigorating walk up to the woods at Verrières. What a wonderful surprise to find that Spring is in full flow there:

20160414_15010420160414_150204I love the fragrance of bluebells, so delicate and distinctive.

All over this area Spring is bursting forth:


Rule Fatigue

One of the things about studying another language is that it makes you appreciate your mother tongue more! I have come to appreciate the flexibility and richness of English: there are so many building blocks which can be put together in so many different ways, with an amazing degree of flexibility.

French is rather more like a jigsaw puzzle. There are lots of pieces, but they are mostly (it seems to me) of irregular shape. To fit the pieces together, you need to know the rules. Oh boy, French is most certainly a language of rules! Even what seems to be a really simple area of the French language has its set of rules, which often seem to be short of logic, or even completely illogical (to an Englishman…).

This does not bother native French speakers at all. Many probably could not tell you the rules, but they are embedded in their subconscious nevertheless. “The subjonctif?” one may say, “No, I never use it!” Three sentences later, there it is, the subjonctif!

Others, like our teachers, know the rules and have no problem with them: “There are rules, lots of them, sometimes illogical, that’s the way it is, get used to it!” Over the last few months or so of delving into all sorts of linguistic nooks and crannies I have never once known our teacher say “Hmmm, I’m not sure, I’ll have to look that up to check.” Nope, she just knows, it’s all at her fingertips. I’m amazed.

Back to the title of the post. This week I think I reached the point of Rule Fatigue: I wanted to yell out in class “Give me a break, there must be something with some good old English-style flexibility!” Our class finished our studies on Thursday morning; I was clock-watching the whole time, desperate to get to the end, as our teacher raced through the material she wanted to cover… She made it, I made it (without yelling any protests!).

Time to relaaaaaaaax…

A Time Of Goodbyes

Today was the last day of term, which concluded with a special goodbye service for those who have finished their time at École des Cèdres, our language school.

It was a time of sadness, as we’ll miss people who we have got to know and to appreciate over the last few months. But it was also a time of joy and wonder: we are so thrilled to see God working in the lives of people from different countries and different backgrounds. It is wonderful to see so many answering God’s call.

I think of a young woman who Joanna and I have got to know a little better just recently, who is bound for a desert country to work with nomads. One possibility is that she might live as part of a nomad family for perhaps six months at a time, moving around with them, living their life, sharing the love of Jesus in perhaps the most intimate way possible. What courage, what committment!

Others will be working amongst students in France: what a massive need there is and what a huge opportunity. I remember another young woman, French, who shared recently how she became a Christian at University because of the quiet yet powerful life-witness of a fellow-student, whilst at the same time she was reading the Koran and being pressured to convert to Islam.

These sad and joyous goodbye times will become a regular feature of our lives over the coming months, as term follows term. Then, one day, it will be our turn…