What is witloof

Very Belgian

In a previous post I explained what is witloof. Now more about its history; discover variants such as groenlof en roodlof (sorry, explanations in Dutch only). Both groenlof and roodlof are closely related to witloof. A reader alerted me about those! (thanks)

Where witloof was created

See: http://www.witloof.ca/what.html

Witloof is known in other parts of the world and languages as: Endive, Belgian Endive, French Endive, Witlof, Witloof Chicory, Chicory, Chicon, and Endivia.

The most popular history behind the discovery of Witloof is of a Belgian farmer living near Brussels around 1830 having stored some chicory roots in his cellar, intended to possibly use them later as a coffee substrate. He came to retrieve them at a later time only to discover white shoots coming out of the head of the root due to the climate conditions in the cellar, which he then tried to eat and found edible.

What Is fact?
Between 1850 and 1851, the head overseer of the Botanical Gardens in Brussels, Monsieur Brezier, developed methods to grow the chicory shoots out of the roots using darkness, warmth, and humidity.  Darkness was essential in producing the white leaves, aka “wit loof”, since the plant doesn’t produce chlorophyll (the green leaf colouring) without light. The crop was first sold on the Brussels market in 1867 and later in 1883 in the Halls of Paris. The witloof crop became bigger and more closed over time as growing techniques improved and better varieties were developed. Today, witloof is a very common European vegetable whereas in many other areas of the world it is still considered a niche product.

Groenlof and roodlof

From the Internet, the  description in Dutch:
Groenlof (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum) is een bladgroente die het midden houdt tussen witlof en andijvie. Het is vooral geschikt voor de najaarsteelt. Groenlof vormt langwerpige kroppen die een milde smaak hebben. Deze groente kan zowel rauw als gekookt gegeten worden.

And other source: https://www.veggipedia.nl/groentenenfruit/groenlof

Groenlof is een bladgroente en behoort tot dezelfde plantensoort als witlof. De groente wordt ook wel suikerbrood genoemd. Dit verwijst naar een ander familielid, de chicorei wortel. Deze wortel wordt als suikervervanger gebruikt. De krop is groen aan de buitenkant en lichtgeel vanbinnen. De smaak ligt tussen die van witlof en andijvie in.
Ook wel genoemd: bladgroente, suikerij, suikerbrood.

Roodlof is een kruising tussen witloof en radicchio. Het heeft een zachte, zoete smaak. Roodlof kun je in salades of wok- en ovengerechten gebruiken.

Belgians in Beijing

Back to social life

Beijing being without doubt the safest place in the world, free of COVID-19, Belgians in Beijing have been getting together recently, with a social drink and with an official reception at the Belgian embassy.

“Belgians in Beijing”

The BiB had a successful social on 29 October 2020 in Groovy’s Schiller (the former Nearby The Tree), a lively chat over beer and food.

We are also looking forward not only to the revival of the BiB but also to the upcoming activities of Vlamingen in de Wereld, with its new Beijing delegate.

King’s Day

King’s Day is more or less considered as our “National Day” in locations such as Beijing as the real National Day is on 21 July when most people are away.
On 13 November 2020 the Belgian ambassador graciously invited the Belgian community to his residence for drinks and food. It was good to be back in the “old” embassy (actually now the Residence only), with the present “temporary” embassy in the Fort Knox building, a pretty unwelcoming location.

Food was by Renaat Morel, delicious and copious as always, drinks offered by the sponsors (Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Vedett and others).

The ambassador mentioned in his speech the absence of many of our compatriots. At least we had the Schtroumpfs to keep us company.

Very nice evening thanks to the mild winter temperature. Good to meet many familiar faces.

Old China Hands 6 November

Full house

Our Old China Hands 6 November lunch had a nice crowd of 34 people. New faces and also some who managed to come back after the imposed quarantine. We can now say Beijing is the safest place to be in this dangerous virus world…
Again our friend Kent surprised us all with a big box of his home-made cookies “Halloween” theme. Thank you Kent!
While the “official” start time is 12:00 half of the tables are full well before midday. All eager to join the lunch!

Renaat Morel, the boss of Morel’s Restaurant still sticks to his special price for our set menu. I guess an increase is due for January as it is really (too) cheap.

Next lunch

The next lunch is set for Friday 4 December, the last one of the virus year.
We hope to see more of our members back from abroad.

Witloof or chicon or endive

The confusion about witloof/chicon

The vegetable that we call witloof or chicon or endive is mostly translated in English as “endive”. The translation is misleading. In Belgium we call it witloof in Dutch and chicon in French.

The correct defintion:
A variety of the common chicory (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum) cultivated to produce a narrow, pointed, blanched cluster of leaves used in salads.
Chicon is the name given to a type of endive. Bitter-tasting and white with yellow edges, this type of chicory can be eaten raw or cooked.
Also called Belgian endive, witloof, witlof, chicon, witloof chicory, Brussels witloof.

For me the signature dish of Morel’s Restaurant is this one:

Simply de-li-cious. But better be hungry to finish it!
Called “chicon au gratin” it is in fact “witloof in hespenrolletjes” (https://www.lekkervanbijons.be/recepten/witloofrolletjes-met-gekookte-ham) – a very popular and traditional Flemish dish – is also called endive and ham gratin, endive with ham and cheese sauce or chicon gratin.

And another description:
Chicons au gratin is a Belgian national dish consisting of braised Belgian endives  (aka chicons) wrapped in slices of baked ham and covered with a Mornay sauce and some grated cheese.  Steaming hot with a creamy cheesy sauce, chicons au gratin is comfort food par excellence.  The bitter Belgian endives mixed with the sweet baked ham also make a winning combination.

andijvie (endive lettuce)

In Belgium and Holland we do have a vegetable that we call “andijvie”; it is a a plant (Cichorium endivia) in the composite family, of South Asian origin, having curled or ruffled leaves with a bitter flavor, cultivated as a salad green. It is closely related to “witloof”.
It is used as a salad or cooked in a few local dishes, or mixed raw in Dutch potato dishes (“stamppot”).

See here the explanation in Dutch and different recipes to prepare “andijvie”, more on the original website:

Andijvie is een typisch Nederlandse bladgroente met een licht bittere smaak. De groente is nauw verwant aan witloof en wordt in de Hollandse keuken vaak gebruikt in stamppotten. Je kan echter nog veel meer kanten met deze groente op. Zo is andijvie ook populair in verschillende diëten. Dit komt vooral doordat er zeer weinig calorieën in de groente zitten, maar wel zeer veel vitaminen en mineralen.

Je kan andijvie bereiden door deze te koken, in de oven klaar te maken, te roerbakken / wokken en nog tal van andere manieren. De groente kan je naast bereiden ook perfect rauw eten. Andijvie is dan ook heerlijk om te gebruiken in een mooie ovenschotel, salade, andijviesoep of in de stamppot (rauw of gekookt).
Zoals gezegd hoef je andijvie niet per se te bereiden, je kan de groente ook perfect rauw eten. De groente is dan ook ideaal om een snelle salade mee te maken of een stamppot rauw andijvie.

Decoration in Morel’s Restaurant

Flower shop?

Our Susan has a weakness for beautiful flowers and she uses her skills for the artful decoration in Morel’s Restaurant with a wide array of fresh flowers; all the arrangements are done by herself and no plastic flowers! All fresh!
See some of her bouquets and arrangements. One flower that stands out is the orange pincushion flower – I had to Google it to learn about it. Pretty expensive…

And she invented a vase with fake ice cubes – they look like it but it is done by … plastic bags in water. Clever!
Ladies also receive a special flower gift (if they are nice). Or, as I do, take it home for the wife who loves it!

Halloween came to Morel’s

Like every year Susan also puts up the decoration for Halloween, attracting the curiosity of Chinese onlookers who take pictures. Susan is part-time artist…

I contributed with the two big pumpkins, first serving as decoration and later for a delicious pumpkin soup!
This year nobody came painted as ghosts, I guess we already look scary enough without makeup. To be on the safe side and keep ghosts away I had a great red wine. Works.