Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

Yes folks, the summer is coming (are you listening weather gods? The summer IS coming) but it’s a little, ahem,sluggish (hailstones??????????) in asserting itself. It’s way too chilly for May and what about all that rain? If only I could make frizzy hair work…

The cold prompted me to plan a whole day’s cooking based round the oven yesterday. The house is warm and smells amazing. I’m slow roasting lamb shanks a la Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with olives and white wine . He calls for Gas mark 3 for 2 hours but I’ve dialled this down and am going for an all dayer on Gas mark 1. I also have a tray of slightly over the hill tomatoes roasting away with oregano and chilli. Again, these guys will be in for most of the day but we’ve just had a few of the more done ones for lunch). Earlier on I made this week’s fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin in from Denis Healy’s farm, in Wicklow which was set off nicely with the tomatoes.

Fresh garlic is mild, tender and almost onioney so you use lots more of it than the regular kind. It’s lovely in omelettes and fritattas and gently fried with chilli will make a great pasta sauce. The rainbow chard is a favourite of mine. Tastewise, it’s like spinach but you get all those lovely colours as a bonus. I tossed the two in olive oil until tender then layered them up with some finely sliced spuds, grated cheddar and Pecorino. Yes, it was as tasty as it sounds.

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

You’ll need:

1 bunch rainbow chard

1 bunch fresh garlic

Olive oil

1k potatoes

200 ml single cream

200 ml milk

Salt and pepper

100gr cheddar cheese grated

75gr Pecorino cheese (Parmesan will also do)

Begin with the spuds – peel then slice them thinly (about 2 mm thick) If you have a mandolin this works brilliantly for this. Put them in a pot of salted water and bring to the boil and get on with things.

Fresh garlic

Wash and trim the garlic. You can keep the green parts. Roughly chop it all and begin to sweat in a generous glug of olive oil. Wash the chard and chop the stems to lengths about 1 cm long. After about 5 minutes you can add these to the pan. Shredded the chard leaves and add this to the pan after a further 5 minutes. Toss everything together until the chard wilts then take off the pan and allow to cool down a bit.

When the potatoes have come to the boil, drain them and set aside. Combine the milk and cream adding a generous pinch of fine salt and lots of black pepper.

To put the dish together lightly grease a  gratin dish with some olive oil and add a layer of potatoes (about 1/5 of what you have). Follow with about 1/3 of the chard and garlic and 1/4 of your cheese.

Fresh garlic and rainbow chard gratin

Continue layering like this ending with a layer of spuds and a final sprinkling of cheese. Pour over the cream and milk then cover with tinfoil and put in the oven at Gas mark 5 and bake for about 50 minutes removing the tinfoil after the first 25 minutes. It’s ready when the spuds are super tender and the crust is golden. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

As I mentioned rainbow chard makes lovely fritatta. Try this recipe with Parmesan if you want to give that a try. Or there’s stirfried with lemon, chili and garlic which makes a great sidedish.

Have a great weekend,



There’s a lot going on foodwise in Ireland this week. First up was  documentary “What’s Ireland eating” on RTE 1 by journalists Philip Boucher Hayes and Suzanne Campbell on Sunday night which made for predictably sober viewing. Irish people spend more money on treats than they do on fruit and veg, processed meats have up to 20% water, obesity rates are shooting up.Urghh.. ..

If you eat organic, chances are you already knew some of this and you’re not one of the people who needs to radically change their lifestyle. Sure, we can all do better but a mainly vegetarian, home cooked, organic (if possible) diet is where it’s at healthwise. All the experts say so and it feels better too.

The other big story is the Eat only Irish for a week campaign started by lamb producer Brendan of Castlemine farm You may have heard him on Pat Kenny last Friday and if you’re on Twitter you’ll know all about it. It’s a great idea and has really focused everyone’s attention on what can be sourced here in Ireland. Lots of the stuff we assume to be Irish isn’t always. As the documentary on Sunday showed, when you eat chicken in a restaurant or cafe it is very rarely homegrown and often comes from as far away as Brazil or Thailand. Yikes!!!!

Again, if you eat locally and organic a big part of your diet is already Irish. Brilliant. No big change required. So, for me this week is really about looking at other items in my shopping basket and making some switches. Some things are easier than others. With 2 very hungry boys in the house I’ve been buying imported honey recently because we go through so much of the stuff . Buying a jar of the local stuff is an easy change, feels much better and I’ve resolved to make savings elsewhere so we can continue the habit. Substitutes for  things like sugar, salt, tea and coffee are impossible to get locally so finding alternatives have been a big challenge. Now, I’m not promising I won’t have a cup of tea all week but trying to eat only local means I’ve been using mint and thyme from the garden. Denis Healy picked lemon verbena for us, admittedly not enough to see us through the week (more like one cup!) but it’s great to get something that’s a bit different as well.

Fresh Garlic

As usual, our suppliers played a blinder this week – Denis and Duncan Healy particularly, they came up with the Jerusalem artichokes, , rhubarb, apples, pak choy, fresh garlic, sage and the aforementioned lemon verbena. Marc Michel’s amazing salad leaves are just starting so the timing on those was brilliant while Philip Dreaper provided the spuds. Now I had hoped to do an all Irish bag but they don’t call this time of year “the hungry gap” for nothing (no, those oranges are not from Wicklow). In a  month it’ll be no problem, but right now it’s not quite possible although I think we did pretty well.

My recipes this week are going to be all Irish – no salt or sugar!!!! and there’ll be at least 2 installments mainly because we got so many new orders in over the weekend that we were completely cleaned out yesterday and there were no Jerusalem artichokes left for me to cook with! We’ll be getting some more in on Thursday morning so I’ll be posting about them then.

My starting point yesterday was the fresh garlic and the baby leaves but feeding a family out of those two  just wasn’t going to happen (I like my food but with boys it’s the sheer volume that I can’t get over). I bought a chicken and decided to stuff it with most of the garlic (I kept a bulb back for another day). When it came to seasoning I had a revelation – what about some seaweed? Gotta work right? It did. While Paul added a sneaky sprinkle of salt onto his plate I managed to hold back and it was quite delicious without. I roasted some spuds alongside the bird and made a salad using our own rapeseed oil (we had this in stock until quite recently but I’m afraid it’s gone until August) and some of that amazing Llewellyn’s Irish Balsamic Cider Vinegar. Lovely.Everyone licked their plate (some literally!)

Roasted rhubarbDessert was a rhubarb fool which I felt completely relaxed about until I remembered the no sugar rule. There was panic but then I saw people tweeting about that gorgeous apple syrup from  Highbank which we actually sell (doh!!)- perfect, an all Irish sweetener. I also slow roasted some apple slices with a little butter at the bottom of the oven (no fancy fan ovens for me something I usually curse but it came in handy yesterday) which I chopped up and threw in aswell for a bit of texture as the usual ginger biscuits I serve with fools were off the menu. I roasted the rhubarb as well so the oven was nicely full  something I always aim for (I only made this cake to save the environment officer I swear!!)

Roast Chicken stuffed with dillisk and fresh garlic with Wicklow leaves

You’ll need:

1 organic chicken

1 small handful dillisk – this you’ll get in your healthfood shop and apart from the saltiness it has lots of healthy properties

4 heads fresh garlic


5 or 6 large potatoes

A few sage leaves if you have them

70gr baby salad leaves or whatever salad leaves you have

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 scant teaspoon honey

First off roughly chop the garlic including the green steams. Tear a small handful of dillisk then mix the two together in a bowl with a glug of rapeseed oil. Use this mix to stuff the cavity then rub some more oil into the bird’s skin. Cover and pop it into the oven at Gas mark 6. Peel, chop and parboil the spuds then add them to the tray along with a few sage leaves. After an hour uncover the chicken. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes then carefully take the garlic and dillisk out of the bird and spread it on the tray. This is to fully cook the garlic but, to stop it burning turn down the heat slightly. Continue roasting until the bird is fully cooked(this will vary with the size of your chicken). When your chicken is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it sit in a warm place for at least 20 minutes. Try and get the garlic and dillisk off the tray too at this stage but the spuds can stay put and go back in the oven. While the chicken is resting, wash and dry the salad. When you’re ready to eat make a dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar and honey together. Serve and devour!!

PS. Be sure and save the bones for stock. Simply cover them in water in a pot along with a bay leaf (nothing else as it’s all Irish this week), bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour. Drain and keep in your fridge or freeze.

The rhubarb fool

You’ll need:

1 bunch of rhubarb

Apple syrup

3 apples – peeled and sliced


250 ml Cream

Get the apples in the oven first as they take the longest. A low heat of say, Gas mark 4 is best but I wouldn’t put the oven on just for them so if you’ve got something in on a higher heat throw them in too on a lower shelf if you’ve got a rubbish oven like me or just keep a good eye on them. Spread on a dish or baking tray before they do in add a good chunk of butter, a drizzle of apple syrup (sugar will do if you don’t have this), cover and away they go. They’ll take about 2 hours.

Prepare the rhubarb by washing and chopping it into 1 inch chunks.It can go in at a higher temperature (Gas 5) but will do fine at a lower one – just takes longer. Cover and roast for about 20 minutes then check. It should be nearly done at this stage and you can put it back uncovered for the last few minutes. You want it nice and tender but not mush. Let it cool down completely then blitz with your blender adding more apple syrup to taste. Stick in the freezer to firm up slightly for about 30 minutes. Finely chop the apples and set aside. To finish the fool off whip your cream then fold in the rhubarb and apple. Ideally you don’t want everything mixed together so you end up with creamy rhubarb. The aim cream with rhubarb through it. Do your best it’ll taste great either way. Decant your fools into the prettiest glasses you have and stick in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.Yummmmmmy!!

A few other things……

As I said, the Healy’s harvested lemon verbena for us which you can boil up for tea. We also got a limited amount of sage which I tried to distribute across all the bags but there just wasn’t enough so a few of you are without. The sage was for having with the chicken and spuds but also I thought that the Jerusalem artichokes would be lovely fried up with it (along with some bacon!). Up to you…


Fresh Garlic coming out of the gound at Denis Healy's farm

We’ve been eating in the garden quite a bit of late  because let’s face it, with the Irish summer you’ve got to get it while you can. The barbecue has been out almost every evening and it’s clear we have a lot to learn. Nearly everything ends up a somewhere between charred and completely incinerated. It’s because we normally only barbecue about twice a year and can never remember any of the lessons we learnt the last time. This summer is going to be different. My big insight is that you’ve got to stand over your barbecue and turn things regularly because otherwise it ……….um burns. The other big step forward has been cooking veg in little packets of tinfoil. It gets that lovely barbecue flavour without all the char. Last weekend I did carrots to go with some (charred) lamb and last night I tried fennel. Both were great and very easy.

Barbecued Carrots with Garam Masala     

Scrub your carrots then cut them into chunks. Parboil, drain then place on a square of tinfoil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and garam masala (cumin and/or coriander seeds also work well). Wrap the carrots then wrap in another piece of tin foil. Place on the barbecue for about 20 minutes. After 10 open the packet (be very careful doing this!) and turn the carrots. Rewrap if you can but if you can’t it’s ok and cook for another few minutes. They are done when nicely browned.

Barbecued Fennel with lemon

Same process except I lightly steamed instead of boiling. I quartered each fennel bulb before steaming then added olive oil and a spritz of lemon with a pinch of salt when wrapping them up. Really tasty..

Roasted Fresh Garlic

This week you may be wondering about that funny leeky/garlicy thing you have in your bag. It’s fresh garlic from Denis Healy in Co. Wicklow. If you’ve never had it before fresh garlic is much milder than the kind we usually have so you can use a lot more of it which is good news as garlic is so good for you. I tried roasting a few of mine in tinfoil with a little olive oil last night and that worked well. I didn’t precook them and left them on the barbecue for longer than the fennel and carrots. I also used it to make a dipping sauce to have with some courgettes I managed not to completely burn and as a topping  for bruscetta.

Fresh Garlic Dipping sauce

Fresh Garlic dipping sauce

You’ll need:

1 bulb of fresh garlic with  the white part of the stem attached

A handful of almonds

Olive Oil


Parsley – I think rosemary would have worked well either

Toast the almonds on a pan then set aside. Roughly chop the garlic then blend with the almonds, a handful of parsley, a pinch of salt  and a glug of olive oil with your handblender. Stop blending before it gets too smooth as a bit of texture is good. This is great with any veg.

It’s the start of the Cherry season (yay!!!) and we’ll have them in all our selections with fruit next week. Can’t wait!

Have a great weekend,



I got rainbow chard this week. It’s so pretty that it seemed a shame to cook it but lunch called so I stopped admiring and made a fritatta with lots of that fresh garlic that’s been around.    

Chard is tougher than other greens like spinach so you’ve got to cook it for longer. I gently fried the garlic  then added the chopped chard stalks first to give them a head start. After about 5 minutes I added the leaves. I gave them a further 5 minutes and that seemed to cook everything nicely. You can of course just stop here, adding some crushed Maldon salt and maybe a spritz of lemon but I decided to make a meal of it and went on. I stopped myself adding a handful of crumbled feta because I seem to do that with just about everything but did throw in a little coarsely grated Parmesan cheese .Pecorino would have done very nicely as well and the Feta, I reckon, would have been great too. I served my  fritatta warm with some cous cous tossed with a smattering of juicy sultanas and toasted pumpkin seeds then dressed in olive oil and lemon juice.  

Fritatta with Rainbow Chard and fresh Garlic    

You’ll need:
A bunch of rainbow chard    

1 head of fresh garlic or 5-6 cloves of the regular stuff    

Olive Oil    

5 eggs    

2 tablespoons of coarsely grated parmesan    

Begin by peeling the garlic. The skin on fresh garlic is so soft  it’s hard to distinguish between the actual garlic and the skin. I peel off the papery skin and reckon that after that anything softer is fine to eat. Roughly chop your cloves and start cooking over a lowish heat in olive oil. While the garlic gets started prepare the chard. Wash it then chop the stalks into pieces about 1cm thick. Set aside then roughly shred the green leaves. After about 5 minutes, you can add the stalks to the garlic along with a little salt. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes then add in the greens. At this stage you can turn up the heat a smidgen but be sure to toss the greens so everything cooks evenly. 5 minutes should do it then you can remove the veg from the pan.    

For the fritatta you’ll need a small omelette pan. Beat 5 large eggs and stir in the veg, Parmesan some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Heat a little olive oil over a medium heat. Add the egg mixture and allow the base of the fritatta to cook.Turn down the heat a bit so the rest of the mixture can set. Finish the fritatta off under the grill.

Fresh Garlic

June 12, 2009

This week the Garlic in your bag is the Fresh or Wet kind. It’s the same as the other stuff but it hasn’t been dried and as a result should be kept in the fridge and used within the week. More subtle and delicate than the regular kind, you can use lots more of it when cooking and it can be used raw in salads along with the stem which adds lovely colour.  It’s amazing roasted and served on bread. Just top and tail the head and drizzle with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper then roast for about 40 minutes in a medium oven. If you’ve nothing in the fridge before we deliver next week saute as much as you like  in plenty of Olive Oil and a little Chili and you’ve got a pasta sauce that even a child (train ’em young!) could make. This Garlic reminded me that it’s been ages since I’d made Aioli (the Catalan version of Garlic Mayo) so I made some last night which we ate with some chips and veggie kebabs. When I learnt how to make Aioli years ago in Barcelona everyone had something to say about it  – don’t use eggs at all, add a little piece of bread dipped in vinegar at the beginning, add the oil drop by drop etc etc. The best way was shown to me one day after I had tried to make it at least 3 times unsuccessfully and it was getting very dangerously close to lunchtime. You use a whole egg as opposed to just the yolk and a blender and it is pretty foolproof…


1 Egg at room temperature

2 Cloves Garlic


200ml/roughly 1/2 Pint light Olive Oil – don’t use extra or even virgin Olive Oil as it gives a very strong flavour. If all you have is virgin Olive mix it with a vegetable Oil

I use a handheld blender and I find that things are easier to manage if your receptacle isn’t too much wider than the blender. If you don’t have something that’s made to go with the blender try using a pint glass.

Chop up the Garlic and drop it into the glass along with an Egg, a pinch of Salt and a glug of oil. Put in the blender  turn it on and very gently move it up and down (I’m taking about an inch) until  the egg and oil have emulsified (you’ll see a thick creamy paste almost like whipped cream). Continue adding the Oil moving the blender a bit more to ensure the oil gets incorporated properly) until you have a thick emulsion then set aside (in the fridge as there’s raw egg).

Serve as I did with chips, baked Potatoes or roast veggies.

wet garlic and mango chutney

wet garlic and mango chutney

I’ve been making Bhajis a lot recently which are vegetable fritters from India. They can be made with pretty much anything so last night I tried them with this week’s fresh Garlic and some green Chili. They are very quick to make but you’ll need to get some Gram Flour in as they really do work best with it. Any of the Eastern shops around will have this as will a decent health food shop. We usually eat them with Mango Chutney but some plain yogurt is lovely too..

Fresh Garlic Bhajis with Green Chilli and Coriander

You’ll need

1 Head of Fresh Garlic very finely sliced

1 Green Chili deseeded and finely chopped

75gr Gram Flour

2 Tablespoon Chopped fresh Coriander Leaves

1/2 Teaspoon ground Coriander

1/2 Teaspoon Onion Seeds

A pinch of Salt

60 ml Sparkling Water or Beer (the bubbles add lightness)

Groundnut Oil for frying

Sieve the Flour, Salt and Coriander Powder. Add the Garlic, Onion Seeds and Chilli. Stir in the Beer or water and make a smooth batter.

garlic bhaji

garlic bhaji

Heat the Oil in a pan then drop tablespoonfuls of the Batter into the pan and fry each side until golden (about 2 mins). When they’re done drain on  some kitchen paper then eat immediately with some Chutney and/or yogurt.

bhaji and chutney

bhaji and chutney

Hope you enjoy these recipes,

Have a great weekend,