This week I've chosen Chard Gratin from this fabulous Sarah Raven Garden Cookbook. Not only is the cover brightly coloured, it's also full of fab recipes split into chapters of crops you'd grow in your garden.
This means it's an invaluable source of inspiration for me around this time of year - I've also made the tomato chilli jam and Kentish Apple cake this autumn - when my kitchen is full of veg we've grown and usually some from my dad too! See a previous Word of the week: Abundance where I share more on this year's home-grown veg crop.
52 Cookbooks: the challenge is to cook a new recipe from one of my (many) cookbooks each week for a year...
With still more chard to use I thought this chard gratin would help put a serious dent in my crop! And although chard isn't MOH's favourite vegetable I thought I'd try my luck... usually I tell him it's spinach but there was no hiding the chard this time round! So having 'fessed up and said there was chard for tea that night, and not getting too much of a reaction I cut just over half a kilo of chard from the garden.
I like to grow the rainbow variety (sometimes labelled as rainbow beet on seed packets) as it looks nice and cheery in the veg patch. I don't find that it freezes that well - although I have done so in the past, and use the frozen chard to bulk out casseroles and stews. I think it's a veg better used fresh and I'm sure I'll be getting a little more inventive with it over the coming weeks too!
This year I've a lot of yellow chard, some red and very little of the white variety. That's why after blanching the stems it all looks a little yellow...
So after cooking the stems and blanching the leaves (separately) and trying to squeeze as much water out as possible I was ready to start assembling the dish.
My Top Tip: using a silicone sieve worked well as I wrung the whole sieve rather than just the leaves, and while my hands were wet they weren't covered in chard leaves.
This recipe adds a garlic clove and three anchovies to the chard stalks. Now I don't mind anchovies but I know some people detest them, however these are cooked so they melt and really do give an extra depth to this. So I'd urge you to add some for flavour even if it's not as many as the recipe says.
The chard stalk mixture goes at the bottom of the dish, followed by the blanched leaves, some marjoram leaves (also from the garden) and a grating of nutmeg. Then I poured over about 100ml of single cream, seasoned it and added a generous grating of Parmesan and it was ready for the oven.
I prepared the gratin to this stage and left it to cook later when MOH got in. That night though he was later than normal and I suspected some chard-avoidance tactics were in play, however he assured me it was just another busy day at work where he'd lost track of time and had actually forgotten there was chard for tea...
In the book Sarah includes optional instructions for including mussels to make a meal-in-one recipe, however as I'm allergic to mussels (but love them dearly) this is a no go for me, sadly.
The gratin cooks in the oven for 25-30 minutes and looked great when it came out of the oven. I'd cooked some sausages and parsnips alongside this, so it was an easy cook and a lovely autumnal dinner.
- This was quite a substantial dinner for the two of us, I hadn't cooked potatoes and was glad of that!
- MOH said "it's ok... for chard!" - so high praise indeed!
- I'd cook this again and think, with other vegetables this would comfortably serve four people.
- Or any leftovers would be good to stir through some pasta.
- I've still some chard left, so I may cook it again sooner than I think! :)