Seasonal recipe No 54: Chicken and Swiss chard melt

A recipe from Allegra McEvedy, who says: “The best thing about this simple supper is the chard … You can use it anywhere you might use wholeleaf spinach, but you will get a more boldly textured result. Chard is even better for you than spinach, too – it just never had the PR muscle of Popeye behind it. It contains less oxalic acid than spinach, which means that we are able to absorb more of its nutrients.”

Apologies to CSA members with small veg boxes who had perpetual spinach rather than Swiss chard this week! Still good for you, though.

Apparently, the Swiss prefix came about in the 19th-century to distinguish it from French chard, which we now call cardoon.

Serves 2

Preparation/Cooking: 30 minutes

150g brown rice
250g Swiss chard (big whole leaf spinach will do)
1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 free-range chicken breasts
150g ball of mozzarella
1 ripe tomato
big pinch dried oregano
salt and pepper

Rinse the rice in cold water, then tip into a saucepan with twice the volume of cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until cooked – about half an hour.

Meanwhile, put a second pan on with salted water for blanching the chard.

Trim and chuck away the very ends of the chard stalks, then cut the stalks away from the leaves. Slice the stalks into 2cm-thick pieces and leave the leaves whole. Blanch the stalks first for about three minutes, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, cool under running water and set aside. Now blanch the leaves for three minutes, rinse under cold water and set aside separately from the stalks.

Zest the lemon and put it with the chard stalks.

In a bowl, mix the garlic with the juice of half the lemon, a couple of tbsp of the olive oil and some seasoning. Squeeze the water out of the chard leaves and coat them thoroughly in the flavoured oil.

Oil a baking tray and pre-heat under a very hot grill. Make a cut down the length of the chicken breasts, but not all the way through so that they open up like a book (this is called butterflying for obvious reasons).

Season the meat, then lay on the dressed chard leaves. Top with slices of mozzarella and tomato, and finish with a little salt and the oregano.

Grill for 10-12 minutes. When the rice is cooked, stir in the chard stalks, some salt and a good splosh of olive oil and serve with the chicken on top.

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