by Sophie Grigson

Serve this gratin as a first course, as a side dish with grilled chicken, or perhaps just on its own with a fresh tomato salad and good bread on the side.

recipe

Buyer's guide

Swiss chard is in season fro June to August, and from October to April.

Look for rainbow varieties of chard at farmers’ markets or farm shops. Choose fresh-looking bunches with bright, glossy leaves and firm, unblemished stalks. Reject any that are starting to yellow.

Storage

Chard needs to be stored in a moist, cool atmosphere. Store it unwashed: wrapped in damp kitchen paper and place in a plastic bag in the salad drawer of the fridge. Use within a few days. Chard leaves freeze well, but the stems become soggy. Wash the leaves well, blanch, drain, then plunge into iced water. Drain again and pack into freezer bags, then label and seal. Cook from frozen.

Preparation

The stem is often steamed and served separately. The leaves cook more quickly than the stem and can be added to soups, flans, tarts and omelettes. They are also sometimes used as a substitute for spinach. Both stem and leaves can be sautéed with cream, butter and cheese. Wash well, before use, to remove any grit, and trim only when ready to cook.