Thursday, 13 August 2015

Chard, and me in my potager......


This is one of our favourite plants in the veg plot this year, and oh what a pretty plant it is. It is unfortunate, therefore, that we don't actually like the taste of chard. This might be because it is a vegetable which we have not grown before so perhaps I am not cooking it right, but then we only had it the once. But chard is going to be an ongoing vegetable here because it flourishes under difficult conditions, so we really need to learn to like eating it and not push it to the side of our plates, after which it goes out to the chickens, so it isn't wasted, but I am a stubborn biddy and would like to get in into our own food system.

However, I read that it is the white chard which is better, so I will have another go at cooking leaves from that plant only, and not mix the gorgeous red chard with it which, according to web info, is the bitter one. I shall not be defeated on this. Chard has survived the long, hot, dry, weather very well, so I think it is only right that I learn to cook it in a way in which we like it to be cooked. Would anyone have any helpful hints about how I can do this? Any help would be much appreciated.



But the cows like it. Bonny especially does. After giving her only one leaf to try she now gives a little groan of anticipation whenever she sees me. Makes her sound all gooey. I feel blessed that we have this close association with our animals. It is a lovely feeling knowing that they can feel pangs of pleasure as well.

Bonny
 
It has been a hard summer for our cows and sheep. With no grazing out on the fields they have had to stay indoors a lot. To help them keep healthy we bought in some silage. They love it. but at 25 euros (about £20 / 28 dollars) a bale, which lasts about four days, it is an expensive treat. Not to worry, they are worth it, and we need to keep them well fed if they are to get through the winter months ahead.






.....and here are some leaves of chard waiting to be given to the cows sitting on top of a bucket full of snap beans, which have done really well despite a lot of the plants looking sickly. Well, so now what do I do with all that lot? Dehydrate them, that is the plan, and immediately, not tomorrow, or the day after...... in the past I have frequently dallied about getting the harvest sorted out once it has come into the kitchen. Problem is that the veggies and fruit do not want to linger at peak condition waiting for me to get round to putting them into storage. Nature is a strong creature, and will push those veggies and fruit into decay quite quickly, this is what I have learnt. Okay, so the animals will eat the rotten mush, but that is not the point of growing produce which we are supposed to eat. Get off my butt, that is what I have to do, and get a move on with getting the produce stored.

This year I have to dehydrate everything because I am not set up for using my canner, and I don't want to put anything other than meat into the freezers because of the time it takes to rummage through everything to find what I want meanwhile getting cold fingers along the way. So dehydrating everything is what I am going to do this year, and making an effort to get whatever comes in from the veg garden into the dehydrator on the same day, if not the next morning.

By the way, it has taken me several days to write this blog, and meanwhile I have done those beans in the bucket, plus another lot I picked the next day, plus the few I picked last night, and for that effort I am quite pleased with myself!

And here is me in the potager, looking serene as I harvest the coriander. To the right of me are the bush beans, then a row of cabbages which are doing well, and then the coriander. I looked tranquil, and I did feel tranquil......

 


...but then there are days when I am frazzled........



...just saying that 'living the dream' is not always smooth sailing, when the moments of tranquillity have to be held on to during the times when one's self is cooking away with a million tensions. And then the cows twinkle their eyes at the sight of me carrying a few leaves of chard towards them, and the chickens coo and cluck around me hoping to seduce me into giving them more food, or the rottweiller girls try ever so hard to love me up so that I forgive them for escaping to the river yet again, or Lester romps in, collapsed with laughter because the snake which was by the fridge in the front room (!!!!????!!!!! wot snake????!!!!) and which he was shooing out had got picked up by one of the hens even though the snake had gone into cobra stance and lifted its head and hissed at the chicken but which took no notice and ate its head anyway and raced off with the dangling body hanging from her beak with all the rest of the chicken flock in frantic pursuit.
 
.... and then there was  the sight of Lester picking up the last of the tarpaulins from off the hallway floor, which gave me a lumpy moment in my chest because it means that we are now going to have proper floors throughout the house which means that we shall have floors which are easier to keep clean, and I shall not run the risk of tripping up on the tarps when I am in 'scurry about the house' mode, which I have often done in the past. (The tarpaulins were put over the concrete floors when we moved into the house from the caravans in an effort to control the amount of cement dust which was made in the air as we walked over the floors)
 
...and if you have any helpful hints about how to cook chard then I would be most grateful. Thanks.
 
Vx
 

15 comments:

My Life in the Charente said...

We love chard and would not be without it in the garden. We have had no joy with the coloured chard but the the white grows brilliantly almost all year round. Our favourite is to remove the stalks and chop them and cook in a little water until soft. Add the chopped leaves and cook until well wilted. Drain and leave while you make the sauce. In the same pan cook a chopped onion in butter then add flour (and a curry powder as well if liked), cook a minute then add milk to make a white sauce, cook till thickened and then add the chard and heat all up.
My neighbour here hates chard and one day I made a quiche with lardons, onion and chard, he said he will eat it like that any time. I use it for all sorts of things, even sometimes just add a little cream and lots of pepper. Friends uses to cook the stalks like asparagus and serve with lemon and butter. It is very versatile. Enjoy Diane

Dawn McHugh said...

O dear Vera you do sound worn out, it is hard work the hardest work I have ever done and we havent even started on the house yet, just finding an hour to sit down and relax when there are animals to feed and clean out, weeds to cleared veggies and fruit to be harvested then there is cooking and preserving, I am looking forward to winter for the very reason it lessens the work load.
Swiss Chard I treat like spinach, I wilt it then toss in a pan with some garlic and balsamic vinigar for just a moment and serve, sometimes I add some chopped pine nuts. Like you I am dehydrating mine at moment as I just dont have time to do anything else with it. :-)

Christine Roberts said...

It is quite strong tasting and I grew it for the first time this years well. I steamed it which was nice and you could add a little butter and pepper as well. I also stir fried it with some garlic which was good,too. I have used it to make agoats cheese and chard tart. Happy cooking!

Christine Roberts said...

I have grown it f for the first time this year as well. I steamed it and you could add a bit of butter and pepper. I stir fried it with garlic which was nice. I made a chard and goats cheese tart. I prefer spinach but that has all gone now. Happy cooking.

2Torts said...

Bonny is very sweet!

Vera said...

DIANE: It was because you have mentioned chard quite a few times on your blog that I thought it was time to have a go at growing it ourselves, and what a good plant it is to grow....now all we have to do is like eating it! Thanks for the info, I shall keep on trying to find a way to eat it!

DAWN: Bless you, it is nice to know that someone else understands how busy it is to run a smallholding at this time of year....but I think my tiredness is having to keep thinking about things to do with the renovation of the house, and it has been a gruellingly hot summer which hasn't helped. Not to worry, onwards! Thanks for the info about chard, .....I shall keep having a go at cooking with it!

CHRISTINE: We can't grow spinach here in SW France because the heat makes it bolt, but it is interesting to know that chard could perhaps be used in place of spinach. I also steamed the chard when I cooked it, but I think it was the red chard which made the chard so bitter to eat. Shall keep trying though...it is too good a plant to keep giving to the cows, sheep, and pigs!

2TORTS: Bonny is indeed very sweet, and due to calf in a few weeks time, after which we shall be milking her. She was born here on our smallholding, and is a very special little lady!

Razmataz said...

I use Chard for soup. I boil it up with potatoes and any stray veg and then blend it into a lovely creamy soup.

Kerry said...

Love the look of the red chard. Here is one of my favourite Ainsley recipes but I substitute chard if spinach isn't available and its just as delicious - Chickpea and Spinach Curry with Flatbreads. I've not made the flatbreads because I cheat and buy them :)

6 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsp Madras curry powder
600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
1 x 200g (7oz) tin chopped tomatoes
225g (8oz) baby new potatoes, halved
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, rinsed
225g (8oz) baby spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the flatbreads
6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
to serve
25g (1oz) butter

Step One
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan with a lid and sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Stir in the garlic, ginger and half the chopped chillies, and cook for a further minute. Add the curry powder, stock, tomatoes and potatoes, cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15–20 minutes until the potatoes are tender but still holding their shape.

Step Two
To make the flatbreads, heat a large non-stick frying pan. Mix 4 tablespoons of the yoghurt with enough warm water to make 120ml (4fl oz), then stir in the beaten egg. Put the flour into a bowl, along with ½ teaspoon salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt mixture, the remaining chilli and the coriander. Quickly mix to a soft but not sticky dough.

Step Three
Turn the dough out onto a lightly flouredwork surface and knead gently for about 30 seconds until smooth. Divide into 4 portions then, using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to an oval shape about 5 mm (¼in) thick.

Step Four
Add a thin film of oil to the heated pan and cook the flatbreads, in batches, for 4–5 minutes on each side until cooked through and lightly golden. Wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm and repeat until all are cooked.

Step Five
Add the chickpeas and spinach to the curry and cook for a further few minutes until heated through, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining yoghurt until just warmed through. To serve, spread the warm flatbreads with the butter. Divide the curry intowarmed bowls, with the buttered flatbreads on the side.

Vera said...

RAZMATAZ; Thanks a bunch! Have made a note of your suggestion as well, so one way or another I shall find a way to get Lester and me eating chard!

KERRY: Thank you so much for taking the time to send the recipe to me. Very interested in making the flatbreads as well. We shall like eating chard, we shall, we shall....although Lester is not showing as much enthusiasm for eating it as I am so I suspect I shall have to disguise it in a couple of meals and let him know he has eaten chard after the event!

Kirsty Udall said...

Vera, you've done very well, and real floors, how exciting! Dehydrating sounds like a good way to store food. I'm not sure I've ever eaten anything dehydrated, does it taste good when cooked?

Good luck with the chard, you've got some good ideas left for you here.

Vera said...

KIRSTY: It is so nice to walk over floors which are solid and not likely to trip me up. As for dehydrated foods...... the food is never going to taste as nice as when it is fresh, but nevertheless is has its own unique, and nice, taste even if eaten without being rehydrated. If you would like some samples of some of my dehydrated food, then do please let me know and I shall send samples to you! Dehydrating is a good way of storing food, ..... at the moment I am dehydrating blackberries, courgettes, and pears. Tomorrow I shall be doing chard, beans, beetroot...... !

Ohiofarmgirl said...

it looks like you have lots of good ideas for that chard. for me i just like to slice it thinly and then saute in olive oil and garlic. i love that your chickens are snake killers - arent they hilarious? one of our meat chickens got a small snake the other day - she was very proud of herself.

Vera said...

OFG, there is something very satisfying about seeing the chickens catching and eating the snakes. Not that I have anything against snakes, ..it is just that I prefer them to be somewhere else and not anywhere near me!

LaPré DelaForge said...

Vera,
try and get hold of the variety "Fordhook Giant"...
it is very similar to the "blete" you buy in the supermarché...
wide white stalks... dark green leaves.
One of my favourite ways of preparing the stalks is to braise them in a stock....
the original recipe came from a Buddhist cookbook and was, therefore, cooked in vegetable stock...
you braise as for celery, ie; leave the stalks whole...
until Al's Dentist...
but softer if you prefer...
remove from stock and allow to cool.... retain the stock...
dress cooled stalks with a mix of sesame oil and LIGHT soy sauce...
do not use DARK... or Japanese...
they are both far too strong and kill the dish...
if you haven't got light soy, Balsa Mick vinegar works as well.

For the leaf, chop up roughly....
including the little bits of stalk that weren't worth using for braising....
and fill a large pan... if you did the braised stalks, add the stock, made up to half a pint if needed.... or just add about a half-pint of water...
NO SALT at this stage.
Cook, turning the leaf at regular intervals...
wait for the all leaf to turn from bright green to a dark "spinach" green....
keep an eye on the water level as you turn the leaf.
When it is all cooked, check for flavour...
if you used the stock, salt is probably not needed... else add salt to taste...
simmer a bit longer and drain... if using the stock, reserve for soups...
if using water, drain into a jug and drink the cooled juice!!
Put the drained leaf back into the hot pan and add a goodly knob of butter and stir in... season with coarse ground black pepper...
serve when hot with a good mashed potato... and a couple of LARGE sossijiz...
or four of the French chipolatas... per person.
Rainbow Chard is also a good one to grow...
Ruby or Rhubarb chard, with its tough stalks and bitter taste is only good...
grown on the windowsill, cut at 2" to 3" high and used in salads.
With Rainbow Chard, seperate as for the braised stalks dish... but cut the stalks into 1/2" lengths and steam them to retain colour... cook the leaf as above...
at the final stage, stir the stalk into the leaf, season and serve....
all the colours look wonderful on a plate...

You will enjoy chard... and it does make a fabulous spinach substitute...
take a sheet of brick, mix cooked, finley chopped chard with chevre cheese...
fill and fold pieces of brick samosa style or gather into little purses... four of either out of one round... cook as per instructions on brick packet...
enjoy!

Tim

Vera said...

TIM, crikey! Thanks a bunch!

Lots of info which I shall make a note of in my recipe file, but think that 2016 is probably going to be the year I experiment with cooking chard for the table, as this year I am just coasting along in regards to how I feed us, so the tried and tested recipes, nothing new.

Thanks for explaining the various types of chard...it is the Ruby / Rhubarb chard which was the bitter one, this we have already found out, but it is the one which the cows like best, so we shall grow it again, but for the animals. As for the other types of chard we have here.....I am dehydrating them so they are not wasted.

Thanks again for the info, and bless you for taking the time and making the effort to get the info to me.

Vx