When I worked at the River Café, many moons ago, we had a small library of cook books which we were allowed to peruse at our leisure. This was well before the days when The River Café had cookbooks of their own. All I can remember is several books by the fabulous Marcella Hazan and very surprisingly, a book by Leslie Forbes called A Table in Provence. Why this was so shocking is that any cuisine that was not Italian was most scorned by Rose and Ruthie, who considered Italian food to be to only way. However we regularly used to make a dish from it called Chard and Rosemary Gratin, which we would serve along side some butterflied, marinated char-grilled leg of lamb. It was an absolute favourite of my friend and fellow chef, Jane Baxter who later when on to become the first head chef of the field kitchen at Riverford. So it is not surprising that if features in the first Riverford cookbook, written by Jane and Guy Watson. Chard will vary through out the season. Sometimes it appears to be all leaf and other times, all stalk. This is a great recipe for the latter as it uses all the chard and with that particular type of swiss chard appearing in the boxes this week, this is a great time to give this recipe a try.
Chard and Anchovy Gratin
2 bunches Swiss chard, about 500-600g
a large knob of butter (about 50g)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp Parmesan, grated (I like to use a little more and even sprinkle some on)
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
Separate the chard leaves from the stalks and blanch them in a large pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain well, refresh under cold running water, then squeeze out excess water. Set aside. Cut the chard stalks across into 5mm strips. Bring the water back to the boil, add the chard stalks and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Drain the stalks and set aside, saving the water for later. Heat the butter in a pan, add the onion and cook gently for 15 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the anchovies, stirring until they dissolve. Return to the heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook very gently for 5 minutes. Slowly stir in the reserved chard stock until you have a thick sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir the chard stalks and leaves into the sauce, together with the grated Parmesan and some black pepper. Transfer the mixture to a gratin dish and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden.