More lasts and more starts.
It’s time to eat up the last of the Swiss Chard and Spinach growing on my plot. As the days get longer and warmer they have sent out lots of new leaves and shoots, but they are about to start flowering so I’m picking huge handfuls to cook up in the kitchen. Besides I need to clear the space for new seedlings, and dig in lots of manure and compost to enrich the soil in readiness for Summer.
I rarely see Swiss Chard in the shops here, it doesn’t seem to be on the British shoppers menu, in France the reverse is true. Go into any French supermarket or look at any market stall and you will see huge leaves of Chard or Blettes, with beautiful white ribbed stalks. We ate one night with our neighbours and friends and ate well ~ the classic Blettes a la Crème. Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking gives us a lovely version of this dish.
You can use either Spinach or Chard, or as we did a mixture of the two. Both the dishes are simple to prepare, no great long list of ingredients or tricky techniques, both baked and equally delicious.
Blettes a la Crème –
Elizabeth David French Provincial Cooking
Wash the Swiss Chard and cut the ribbed stalks into chunks and roughly chop the green leaves. Steam them gently for a few minutes, remove from the pan and try and get as much water out of the leaves as is humanly possible.
Make a Bechamel sauce, David recommends that you enrich it with cream, who am I to argue?
Take a gratin or oven dish and pour some of the Bechamel sauce into it, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then add the greens and cover completely with the remainder of the sauce.
Cook in a moderate oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden.
Let’s jump across the border to Italy for the 2nd way to prepare Chard and Spinach
Baked Spinach –
The River Café Cook Book
Serves 6 people
1.3 kg / 3llb Spinach, 2 eggs, 400ml / 14 fl oz double cream, 100g / 4 oz Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp grated nutmeg, Salt and Pepper to season.
While the oven is warming up, (190) blanch the spinach and then drain very well, and roughly chop the leaves, again getting as much of the water out as is humanly possible :)
In a bowl beat the cream, eggs, nutmeg, ½ the Parmesan and salt and pepper for a minute.
Gently mix the chopped greens into the cream and egg mix. Put them in a baking dish that is at least 4cm deep. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
And yes, as I clear the ground for new seasons crops and eat the last bunches of Spinach and Chard, we are sowing them. These pretty seedlings are Rainbow Chard that a kind friend has given to me. I’ll be supplementing this with standard Swiss Chard (the white stalks) and several varieties of Spinach.