Rainbow Chard…don’t you just love the name…? I love its colour, its ruby and yellow stalks, its gleaming leaves. The way it squeaks and crunches when I pick it, bunch it, wash it and remove the stems. There’s a music in strong green leaves at this time of year…almost a tune. While it tries to masquerade as a member of the brassica family, I forgive its airs and graces and love it for what it is…Beta vulgaris.
Last year I made Chard, Onion and Goats’ Cheese Tart with Pine Nuts and Currants from Riverford Organic Farm . We all loved it with one reservation- even though there’s usually some commercial puff pastry in the freezer, there had to be a more wholesome base for the tart, something whose provenance I could trust; something which would not only please the palate, but sustain the 1014 bacteria housekeeping the body’s internal ecosystem. Then, along came Arún bakery with their sourdough bread, a fermented product baked daily, down the road. Sorted!
Rather than making a tart on a puff pastry base, I prepared the topping, piled it on toasted slices of Habsburg and subjected it to a hot grill.
The flavours were perfect together; – a base of yeasty bread, strong bitter-ish chlorophyll- laden leaves of chard, counterbalanced by the sweetness of onions and garlic sautéed together in olive oil, then seasoned with salt and pepper, a grating of nutmeg and some lemon juice. To top it all, some goats’ cheese, raisins and toasted pine kernels.
4 slices of sourdough bread, toasted
3 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches rainbow chard
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A scraping of fresh nutmeg
200g goats’ cheese, sliced or crumbled
A handful of pine kernels, dry roasted in a hot oven for 3-5 minutes until golden
A handful of raisins or currants soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes, then drained.
– Toast the sliced sourdough bread till golden. Set aside
-Set the grill to its highest setting and prepare a grill rack over a baking tray.
-Sauté the chopped onions in olive oil over a moderate heat until soft and beginning to colour.
– Towards the end, add the minced garlic and cook gently. Do not allow to brown or the garlic gets bitter.
In the meantime
-Plunge the chard into a sink-ful of cold water and wash carefully. Drain, remove the stems, keeping the fine ones for cooking and discarding the tough, stringy ones.
-Chop the stems and leaves
-Bring 2” water to the boil in a pan, add chard leaves and stems, cover and return to the boil for 5 minutes then turn into a colander to drain.
-Add drained chard to onion mixture and season with salt and pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice. Keep cooking over a low heat until any liquid has evaporated and the mixture has become dry-ish.
-Arrange toasted slices of bread on the grill rack.
-Pile generous spoonfuls of chard/onion mixture on top
– Lay slices of goats’ cheese on top and scatter raisins and pine nuts over.
Grill for a few minutes until goats’ cheese begins to melt. All grills differ…take care that you don’t burn the pine nuts and raisins. If you have a blow-torch for crème brulée, it might be easier to scorch the cheese first, then scatter the pine nuts and raisins over.
The chard/onion mix can be made in advance and refrigerated.
These Rainbow Chard and Goats’ Cheese Sourdough Crostini then become a convenience food….cheese on toast, anyone?