Seasonal local food recipe No 107: A chard gratin with grain mustard

Before the recipe – which comes from Nigel Slater’s Tender – a few points about chard. After all, it grows well on the CSA’s plot so we’ll be seeing it in our veg boxes pretty often and might as well learn how to enjoy it!

  • If the stems are wide, they need to be cooked separately from the leaves. Best to cut the stalk a centimetre or so below where the leaf starts. The stem is still tender at this point but will help the leaf keep its shape better during cooking. The leaves can be cooked just as you would cook spinach.
  • In a gratin-type recipe, as below, the chard leaves need a good squeeze to get rid of their water.
  • Yoghurt, fromage frais and mascarpone are all good as a dressing for freshly cooked chard. Add a trickle of olive oil too, and perhaps a scattering of paprika.
  • Chard stalks, however thick, never take longer to boil or steam than three or four minutes.
  • Seasoning your chard: anchovies – chopped and cooked to a pulp in olive oil; parsley – can calm the mineral notes of older stalks, especially if used with olive oil and lemon juice; lemon juice and a peppery olive oil – as a dressing for warm leaves and stalks.

Serves 4

450g chard stems and leaves
1 tbsp grain mustard
400ml double cream
a good handful of grated parmesan

Cut the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into short lengths and then cook briefly in boiling, lightly salted water until crisply tender. Dip the leaves in the water briefly, until they relax. Drain well and put them in a buttered shallow dish. Put the mustard in a bowl and stir in the cream and a grinding of salt and black pepper. Pour the seasoned cream over the stems and leaves, cover with grated parmesan and bake at 180C/gas 4 till the top has a light crust the colour of honey.

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