How to Make Baked Eggs with Swiss Chard

Baked EggsUnlike some of my fellow Garden Share Collective bloggers like Dusty Country Road, Our Wee Farm and Strayed from the Table, we don’t have chickens on the allotment. I wish we could, as I love the idea of being able to go and collect fresh eggs each day, but one of the rules of the allotment site is no livestock. So, when I want to have eggs I need to get them from the shops and our local free range supplier.

I do however have a good supply of Swiss Chard, and enjoy using it in many different dishes, such as chard pilaf and chard and blue cheese tarts. This little light lunch is inspired by the desire for my own fresh eggs and my favourite allotment veg, the silken runny yolk perfectly compliments the iron rich earthy flavours of the chard.

You will need (serves 2)

2 eggs
150g Swiss Chard
A few knobs of butter
Salt & pepper
Nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Wash the chard and trim off the thicker bits of the stems. Place them in a large hot pan and cook until wilted. Stir in a small knob of butter and a grating of nutmeg, before dividing the chard between two buttered ramekins. Crack an egg into each ramekin, season with salt and pepper, and add another small knob of butter to each of the ramekins. Bake for a 10-12mins until the egg is just set. Serve with toasted sourdough or similar bread. If you’re pining for eggs and soldiers, as I do sometimes, why not serve toast soldiers to dip into the runny yolk.

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Torta Pasqualina – A Pie for Easter

Swiss chard is one of the heroes of my plot, and I’ve blogged about my love of it before. Its vibrancy always makes a visit to the plot a joy, but recently its been joined by many green shoots and leaves emerging all over the plot. Spring is such a great season and the prospect of new life and a season of growing ahead is an uplifting one. Although much is growing at the allotment, there is not a vast amount able to be harvested; and with Easter coming up I was looking for a dish which could combine some allotment ingredients and celebrate Easter at the same time. Cue the arrival of the Guardian the other day and Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for a Torta Pasqualina. It seems the Italians also have a need for an Easter dish which uses seasonal vegetables. The combination of chard and ricotta is always a good one, and having discovered Genius Gluten Free Puff Pastry recently its a dish I can make for the whole family. Here’s my recipe, loosely based on Ottolenghi’s.

Torta pasqualina

You will need (makes enough for 8)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1kg Swiss chard (we have the Rainbow variety which adds great colour to the dish), stalks stripped and finely chopped, leaves shredded
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
Handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
Small handful of new fennel tops, finely chopped
½ tsp ground mace
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
250g ricotta
50g parmesan
9 eggs
Salt and black pepper
500g Genius Gluten-free puff pastry
Gluten-free plain flour, for dusting

Start by sweating the onion for a few minutes until it is softened, then add the chopped chard stalks and celery. Continue to cook for a few minutes, before adding the leaves and allowing them to wilt. Take the pan off the heat, cool, then place the mix into a tea towel and squeeze out any liquid. The dryer the mix, the better it will hold its form later. Add the cheese, herbs, spices and 3 eggs to the chard mix and mix thoroughly (seasoning with a little salt and pepper as needed).making a torte pasqualina

Roll out the 2/3 of the pastry and use it to line a 20cm loose bottom cake tin. Place the chard mixture into the pastry case and make 5 indentations, breaking an egg into each, before rolling out the remaining pastry and making a lid for the pie. Trim the edges and then crimp them to provide a secure seal. Brush with  beaten egg and prick a few holes in the pastry, before placing in a preheated oven (180°C) for 45 minutes, until golden on top. Leave to cool and serve.

torta pasqualina

 

Little Swiss Chard and Stilton Tarts

I love Swiss chard. There I’ve said it. It has to be my “go-to veg” when sowing at the allotment, if there is a space it’s filled with chard.  As a plant, it’s hardy and forgiving, and just keeps on going. Added to this, it has a beautiful form and, if you sow rainbow chard as I do, the colours are so vibrant. I remember being blown away by the chard at the Eden Project; they’d got it growing in rows like a bedding plant, and it was so beautiful. Swiss chard is also a great vegetable to eat; we just don’t eat enough of it in this country. In Italy, its appreciated more and both the leaves and the stalks are cooked extensively.

With a limited amount to harvest at the plot, Swiss chard has appeared regularly on the table (often in the form of a chard pilaf). The other day though we had some stilton leftover from something, so I combined the two ingredients in a little tart. Blue cheese has a natural affinity with chard; the iron rich leaves complimenting the twang of the cheese. Combined with the creamy blanket of the egg custard, it makes a delicious tart.

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You will need (makes 4 small tarts)
250g Swiss chard, washed and stems stripped from the leaves
150g Stilton (or any other strong blue cheese) chopped into small dice
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
350ml double cream
salt and pepper

For the shortcrust pastry
250g wholemeal flour
50g walnuts
125g unsalted butter
A pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
30ml (approximately) milk

Start by making the pastry (it needs time in the fridge to rest before being rolled out). Put the walnuts in a food processor and whizz until a fine powder. Add the flour, salt and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, then (with the food processor going) slowly pour in the milk until the dough starts to come together. Remove from the bowl and knead a little before wrapping in cling-film and chilling for at least half an hour.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface; you want it pretty thin to help get a crisp finish. Use pastry to line four 10cm deep tart cases, line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, and place in a preheated oven at 170°C. Blind bake for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven, remove the beans and paper, and lightly prick the base; before returning to the oven for a few more minutes until the base is dry but not too coloured. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C.

Blanch the chard in boiling water, drain, chop lightly and leave to one side to cool a little. Once cool, divide the chard between the four tart cases, topping each with a quarter of the cheese. Put the eggs, egg yolks, cream and salt and pepper in a jug and beat until smooth. Pour the custard over the filling of the tarts and bake in an oven for half an hour, or until they are slightly browned on top, but still have a slight wobble to them. Remove from the oven and serve warm (or indeed cold if you can wait that long).

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Swiss Chard

Whenever I’m asked by people about what to grow when you take over an allotment, or start a veg bed at home, the answer is always the same. Potatoes and Swiss chard. Potatoes are great, as they do some of the soil improving work for you, not least when you have to dig your harvest in the summer. However, Swiss chard is the real star, it just keeps on giving. We got turned on to chard when we used to get a veg box from the fantastic Barcombe Nurseries. We’d get home from work to find a small box of vegetable and fruit delights; each week a different selection, but nearly always including Swiss chard. It’s just so versatile. It can be used as a spinach alternative, mixed with ricotta to fill cannelloni or ravioli for example; but its earthy, iron-rich flavours are robust enough to be an accompaniment to a piece of meat after only a wilting with some garlic and a dash of lemon juice and olive oil. Its stalks can be chopped and added to curries, or steamed, then made into a cheesy gratin.

I’ve found that Swiss chard is also pretty easy to grow and incredibly hardy, often lasting for over a whole season. Like spinach and beetroot (to which it is related) it has a seed cluster, and each cluster can produce three or four seedlings. I tend to grow mine in modules (a cluster to each section) and then prick out weaker plants, before transplanting out. This seems to allow the plants to establish before setting them in the path of the slugs that prowl my allotment; the plants larger size is defence enough from the potential mollusc attack. Once established the plants grow well, and if picked sparingly from the outer leaves, will give you a harvest for a significant season. The baby leaves are an excellent addition to a mixed salad, and if you sow the ruby or rainbow varieties, add colour too. Indeed, I would suggest rainbow chard is worth sowing for the vibrant colour of the leaves alone.

Last night we used this delicious leaf in a simple chard pilaf to accompany a range of curries which had been in the freezer in small portions.

You will need
400g Swiss chard
200g uncooked rice, pre-soaked for 10 minutes
50ml olive oil
75g chopped spring onions
1 lemon, squeezed
A handful of chopped fresh coriander

Wash the Swiss chard well. Remove the stalks and finely chop, then shred the leaves and set aside to drain. Heat the oil and soften the spring onions before seasoning with salt and a pinch of garam masala.  Add the rice and toss it in the onions for a few minutes, so that it is coated in the spicy oil. Then throw in the chard stalks, leaves, and coriander and cook for a minute or so.  Add 400ml boiling water (or better still stock) and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked. Allow the pilaf to stand for a few minutes before serving.
 

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