Leaf chicory is usually found in Italian greengrocers and in fresh food markets. Each stalk is about half a metre long, dark-green and has divided large leaves along the stem. American books often describe this vegetable as dandelion chicory.
500g leaf chicory
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
a few slices of preserved lemon (optional)
8 slices air-dried beef or smoked kangaroo (optional)
Wash the untrimmed leaf chicory well. Slice off the last centimetre of the stems and discard. Cut the rest of the bunch crosswise into 3cm-wide slices, stems and leaves.
Bring a very large pot of water to the boil. Plunge in all of the chicory, give a big stir and bring back to the boil as rapidly as you can. Tip through a colander waiting in the sink. Run the cold water tap over the chicory for a minute to stop the cooking. Now press the vegetable hard with your fist, or a small plate, to extract as much liquid as possible. Roll in a clean tea towel, put a heavy weight on top and set aside until needed.
Toast the coriander seeds over moderate heat until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse powder. Mix in the paprika and salt and leave until needed.
Heat two-thirds of the olive oil in a wide nonstick pan and saute the onions until they are a rich brown. Remove half a cup of the sauteed onions from the pan and set aside. Stir in the drained chicory and the spice mixture and turn in the hot oil until all is well mixed. Tip onto a flattish serving platter.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan and continue to cook the reserved onions, stirring, until they look almost burnt. Tip onto kitchen paper to drain and crisp. Sprinkle the chicory with the lemon juice, place the dark-brown onions on top and scatter over the preserved lemons.
Arrange curls of smoked kangaroo or air-dried beef around the platter if you wish.