Chard is an odd one. The difference in texture between the hard stalks and the leaves that disappear at the merest hint of heat makes it a bit of a pain to cook, and I’m sure some people question how rewarding an eat it is.
But it really is! The obvious thing to do is simply to wilt the stalks and leaves separately, season with salt and pepper and maybe add a glug of olive oil or a knob of butter. Which is fine, but this dressing enlivens things further. The sweet-sour of the vinegar and chilli and the hint of raw shallot work so well against the earthy and ever-so-slightly bitter stem and warm-but-barely-wilted leaf; I love it. Fatty pork chops or shoulder steaks, lamb and beef are big fans of the combination too.
It takes barely three minutes to cook this dish, so make sure you have all the other components of your meal ready before throwing the leaves into the pan. Large-leaf spinach works well as a substitute for the chard.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 800 g Swiss or rainbow chard
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons light olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 small shallot (40 g), very finely diced
- 1 mild red chilli, very finely diced
- Sea salt
- First, prepare the vinaigrette. Put the sugar, olive oil, cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons tepid water in a bowl or jar and stir or shake well to emulsify. Add the shallot and chilli. Put a third of the dressing in a large serving bowl.
- Trim the chard stems and leaves to remove any unsightly bits. Remove the thick stems from the leaves. Chop the stems into 3 cm lengths and set aside, then cut the leaves into large pieces about 8–12 cm wide.
- Set a large heavy-bottomed frying pan, saucepan or wok over a high heat. Add the oil and allow it to heat up. Add the chard stems and cook for 90 seconds, pushing them around a few times so they don’t catch and burn. Add the leaves and garlic. Cook for 90 seconds longer, moving the chard around the pan so all the pieces get a little heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Remove from the pan once two thirds of the leaves have wilted; the rest will cook in the residual heat.
- Tip the chard into the serving bowl containing one third of the vinaigrette and toss well. Transfer to a serving platter and spoon the rest of the vinaigrette liberally over the top.