Hand drawn image of Pain de sucre

Pain de sucre

Chicorium intybus

Pain de sucre is a solid chicory with tightly wrapped leaves. It has a pale centre with a mild and crunchy texture, surrounded by greener, more bitter leaves for cooking.

It is named after the bread-shaped cones that sugar used to be transported in - literally translating as "sugar loaf".

Image of Pain de sucre being produced

In the kitchen

Storage

It is best eaten as fresh as possible, but will keep happily in the fridge for at least a week.

Prep & Cooking tips

Discard any sad-looking outer leaves, and chop, tear or slice as you require. If you are cooking or baking it then you may want to cut it into more generous chunks; for folding into slaws or mixing into salads, try shredding it widthways as finely as you can.

Video: Veg hacks - Bitterleaves (Pain de sucre & Radicchio)

Easy ideas

1. Salad

Perfect as a salad leaf if mixed with a balance of milder leaves. If using on its own, a sharp punchy dressing is key. A vinaigrette with plenty of balsamic or cider vinegar and a generous blob of mustard is perfect. Try chopping or grinding a few anchovy fillets and rosemary leaves together before thinning with some lemon juice and oil to make a suitably forthright dressing.

2. Broth

Try adding a handful of shredded leaves to a winter stew or broth as a finishing touch. Make sure the broth has a deep savoury flavour and consider finishing with a little salty cheese and a squeeze of lemon to carry the strong taste.

3. Bake

Try chopping into generous chunks and wilting slightly in a pan with a little salt, brown sugar and lemon juice. Make a white sauce seasoned liberally with cheese and mustard, as you would for a cauliflower cheese. Cover the wilted leaf in the sauce, top with breadcrumbs and bake until golden.

Goes well with

Anchovies
Cheese (blue, parmesan, goat's)
Cream
Crème fraîche Eggs
Lemon
Mustard
Nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts)
Pork (bacon, ham)
Sweet fruits (apple, fig, pear, persimmon, poached quince)
Vinegar (especially sweet ones - balsamic, sherry)

Pain de sucre recipes

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Seasonality

Pain de sucre is the most hardy of the bitter leaf family and can stand in the field through to February.
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