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Chard Gratin

Introduction

We have grown more varities of chard than I knew existed. In the kitchen garden you will see Rainbow\Bright Lights, Silverbeet, Spinach Beet. On the other side of the garden we have what the French refer to as Cardes. The wine bottle pictured is for perspective, not because of a wild party in the vegetable garden.

You'll see cardes in French markets with the leaves bundled on top of each other. The stalks have an excellent flavour and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for cardoons (for the first month, that's what I thought I was growing).

Most chard recipes will tell you to cut off the stalks leaving just the spinach-like leaves. The leaves can be treated like spinach, see Suggestion below. What the recipes neglect to mention is that when you discard with the stalks, you dispense with the essence of chard, because while the leaves are good, the stalks are wonderful. This recipe shows you one simple way to cook them.

Tips

Gather or buy chard when you want to use it. If you need to store it for a day or two, wrap the stalks in a damp cloth or paper towel.

The different varieties of chard have complimentary flavours, so can be mixed.

Ingredients

Measures available: Metric  Imperial  U.S.

  • Stalks from a 500g bundle of chard
  • 120g cheese - Pecorino, Parmesan or a mature cheddar, grated
  • 30g of un-salted butter or olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Stalks from a 1lb bundle of chard
  • 4oz cheese - Pecorino, Parmesan or a mature cheddar, grated
  • 1oz of un-salted butter or olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Stalks from a 1lb bundle of chard
  • 1 cup grated cheese - Pecorino, Parmesan or a mature cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons of un-salted butter or olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Tools of the Trade

  • An oven-proof baking dish

Assorted chard leaves

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C\395°F\gas mark 6 (reduce temperature by 10% if using a fan oven).

Cut the stalks into roughly even lengths so that they fit snugly into the baking dish. Don't discard the off-cuts.

Bring a pan with 2cm\1 inch of water to the boil. Once it has reached the boil add the stalks, cover the pan and cook 'blanch' for 3 minutes. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the cooking water then refresh the stalks in cold water and pat them dry with paper towel.

Grease the baking dish with half the butter or olive oil and then layer the stalks in the dish. Fill in the gaps with off-cuts, lightly season each layer and add a little of the grated cheese.

When the last layer is complete, mix the reserved cooking water with the remaining butter\olive oil and pour over the dish. Sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese and season.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes; the stalks should feel just tender when prodded with a knife.

Leave to stand for 3-5 minutes then serve.

Suggestion

The 'left-over' leaves can be shredded and steamed. Toss them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a small knob of butter. Then season and serve.