Chard gratin

imageThe vegetable stall at the Farmers’ Market had the most wonderful big bunches of rainbow chard last week, which prompted me to cook Lucy Boyd‘s recipe for chard baked with  crème fraîche. The brightly coloured stems of the rainbow chard turn the cream the colour of saffron and make for a very pretty dish. Irene made this the first time for me when I had just come back from a trip and it became an immediate favourite. Alone, it is a lovely lunch or light supper, but it is also a perfect accompaniment for plainly-cooked fish, game or meat.

Last night I served it with lamb steaks for a late supper with a friend after going to a concert. Beforehand I marinaded the lamb steaks in olive oil, lemon juice and rosemary, and blanched the chard. When we got back I just had to toss the chard with the garlic and pop it into the oven for 10 minutes, while I cooked the lamb steaks on the griddle. It meant supper was on the table in not much more than 20 minutes – enough time to have a glass of wine and nibble some pistachio nuts – and it went down very well, followed with Poached pears and chocolate cream.

I have reduced the amount of crème fraîche and parmesan somewhat to make it a little lighter than the original. You can also use cavolo Nero, though I haven’t tried that yet. I forgot to weigh my bunch of chard – Boyd recommends 500g chard for 4, so these quantities are for 2.

250g Chard, preferably rainbow chard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large garlic clove
3 tbsp crème fraîche
35g Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/ 200ºC/Gas 7 (unless you plan to complete the gratin later, as described above) and put on a pan of water to boil.

Wash the chard carefully, trim the stems from the leaves and cut off the dirty ends of the stems. Cut the stems into pieces about 1 cm long. Bunch the leaves together and slice them crosswise into three or four.

When the water boils add the stems, put the timer on for 1 minute, then when it rings add the leaves and cook for a further 4 minutes. Drain the chard in a colander and rinse briefly under cold water to stop the cooking, separating the leaves with tongs so they don’t clump together.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large frying-pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Just as it starts to colour add the chard leaves and stems and toss using tongs to coat them with the garlicky oil.

Tip the whole lot into a gratin dish, season with salt and pepper and dot the crème fraîche over the top. Finally, grate the parmesan over the top, drizzle over a little more olive oil and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until hot and sizzling.



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