A winter comfort dish from Ed Smith, in celebration of Bianca e Mora’s success at the Slow Food London awards
You will, I’m sure, have noted that Bianca e Mora—among many other traders—did brilliantly in the Slow Food London awards this year, winning best individual product for their vacche rosse parmigiano reggiano for the third year in a row (Oliveology coming close second, for its unpasteurised olives), as well as best deli, and best cheesemonger—that’s three awards for the second year running, last year being the first time anyone had done so. That sort of success deserves a recipe.
Now, one of my favourite things to do with quality parmigiano reggiano is to simply enjoy it ‘raw’. I love cutting thin slices or pushing off large chunks with the tip of a knife, and enjoying the nutty, salty qualities of this cheese, not least when I crunch a crystal of umami. A proper midnight fridge raid treat.
But that’s probably not sufficient as a recipe. So, instead, a dish that celebrates quality parmesan and seasonal Market vegetables: swiss chard and parmesan bake. Make this—it’s knockout.
400-500g swiss chard
60g white onion or shallot, finely diced
4 salted anchovies, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely sliced
280ml double cream
80g parmesan, freshly grated award-winning vacche rosse parmigiano reggiano
25g stale breadcrumbs
Sea salt, black pepper, whole nutmeg
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Pre-heat the oven to 210C. Grab yourself a small earthenware, cast iron or pyrex gratin dish.
Prepare the chard by cutting the stem out of the leaves. Cut any gnarly bits off the end of the stems and discard. Then cut the stems into 3-4cm lengths. Put in the boiling water for 2 mins. In the meantime, split the chard leaves in half lengthways (carrying on from where you cut the stem out), and then each of those in half across the length.
Add these to the boiling water and blanch for a further 90 secs. Drain through a colander, then spread the leaves out over a clean cloth or old (but clean) tea towel to cool and dry further.
Place the saucepan back on a medium heat. Add the butter and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt so they soften, but don’t colour. After 3-4 mins add the anchovies and garlic. Cook out for about 90 secs until the anchovies start to melt away. Then pour in the cream and add 70g of parmesan. Stir until the cheese has melted. Turn the heat off and season with plenty of black pepper and a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg.
Add the chard stems to the cream. Squeeze the chard leaves over the sink, removing any remaining moisture. Then put these in the cream, opening each leaf out like a hanky so you don’t end up with 1 solid ball of chard. Mix well, then pour this into your gratin dish.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, then the last 10g of parmesan. Pour a little olive oil from your anchovy tin over the crumbs, then place in the upper middle of your oven for 20-25 mins until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cream is bubbling up.
ALTERNATIVE: Once chard goes out of season, try swapping in cavolo nero.
Recipe and image: Ed Smith