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,


Poor Claire has been very unwell with the flu and without her we’re lost. Leek mash, baked feta and rocketAll the extra making up for her absence means I don’t have a new recipe for this week so I’m going to offer some suggestions from our blog.
This week’s lovely leeks from Oliver Kelly are gorgeous cooked down slowly in butter then folded into creamy mash with a side of baked feta especially with all wintery weather we’ve been having..
Or what about braised with a Parmesan crust? You could also roast them up with this week’s carrots and make risotto.

Risotto with Leeks and Carrots plus Ramiro Peppers

For those of you with rainbow chard I find that stir-fried with lemon and garlic is hard to beat and this would go beautifully with the leek mash (I’d leave out the chickpeas if serving it with spud though)

Rainbow chard on the panFritatta is also lovely and you could serve it with some slow roasted tomatoes  Roasted tomatoesand a salad with your purslane (the green leaves you might be wondering about).

And for dessert? Well, you won’t do much better than this week’s Osteen mango. They’re amazing with a gorgeous coconutty edge. Chopped up with some good vanilla ice-cream will make it go further (you might serve 4 this way) but straight up between 2 is really the way to go. The stone is the best part and this is where it gets a bit messy. Dan and Auggie fight over it and end up passing it back and forth each watching the other like a hawk in case anyone sucks too much of the gorgeous nectar. We also attack the skins so be sure and wash before you peel. This isn’t a first date approach to things (or is it?) but it really is the way to get the best out of it.

Have a brilliant weekend,


Goat's cheese saladWhen I au paired in Paris I learnt a few things about food that came back to me when we were there recently. First of all French people don’t sit around eating croissants all day because um, croissants and all that other amazing bakery stuff makes you fat.  All those super chic skinny women you see in amazing clothes haven’t eaten a croissant (or much of anything else for that matter) since they were about 12. More importantly I saw for the first time that seasonal produce is the starting point for good food so before you decide what’s for dinner you go to the market. Thirdly, salad should be a daily event and the classic French dressing I learnt with oil, vinegar, wholegrain mustard and honey is one of the best I know. Over the years I’ve been swept away by balsamic, played with Sherry, dropped the mustard, dropped the honey, gone Asian but when I had it again recently its genius came back to me.

Eaten with the simplest of green salads there’s enough flavour in this simple dressing to keep things interesting but when you add the classic French salad cheese – goat’s, it really starts to make sense. The honey contrasts with the tang of the cheese while the vinegar lightens things up. A few walnuts are an addition you often get and they work perfectly. You can keep things really simple and simply crumble the cheese into the salad or make it more of an event by toasting the cheese under the grill just before you serve the salad. It’s a great lunch or simple starter that never lets you down.

A classic French salad with Chèvre chaud

You’ll need:

Enough lettuce for two people washed and dried

A small handful walnuts

180gr chevre cheese divided into 2 rounds – the soft variety they sell in logs

2 small rounds of bread for sitting the cheese on when grilling

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 teaspoon honey

A tiny pinch of salt

Whisk the salad ingredients together, adding a little more honey if you think it needs it then set aside. Set the cheese on the bread rounds and place under a hot grill and toast until golden. In the meantime, toss the leaves, walnuts and dressing together and divide between two plates. When the cheese is ready, set each one on the centre of each plate and serve immediately with lots of good bread and a glass of red.

Rainbow chard

This week’s rainbow chard is one of my favourite varieties.It’s just so pretty and I’m a sucker for that kinda thing. Tastes good too. You’ll have to move fast as,like a lot of these lovely delicate  summer varieties, it can go downhill fast. Fritatta is a great way to go and will give you the bones of a meal. A salad and some bread and you’re set.

I tossed mine with chickpeas, lemon zest and chili a la Heidi Swanson whose Super Natural Cooking books I’ve been using a lot recently. It’s a very simple approach with lots of flavour and the final dish is great with a bowl of rice for a simple lunch or snack or as part of a mezze style meal. Try it with maybe a Spanish omelette, a cous cous salad and a slab of baked feta….

Rainbow chard with chickpeas

Rainbow chard and chickpeas with chili, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil

You’ll need:

150gr rainbow chard washed and dried with any tough stems removed.

1 tin of chickpeas drained and rinsed

4 plump cloves garlic finely chopped

Olive oil

1/2 fresh chilli finely chopped or a pinch of dried flakes

The zest of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Prepare the chard first – chop the stems into pieces about 2cm long and set aside then roughly chop the leaves and set aside separately. In a pan heat a generous glug of olive oil, chili, garlic and a large pinch fine salt. Allow the garlic to sizzle but don’t let it go brown. Throw in the chard stems and toss for about a minutes to ensure they soften.

Tainbow chard stems in the pan

Add the leaves then the lemon zest and stir well.

Rainbow chard on the pan

Pour all this over the chickpeas in a bowl, toss well adding some freshly ground black pepper and serve.


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.