Trying new veggies: Chard #NewcastleCan

The main positive change I’ve made in trying to eat more heathily since signing up to the Newcastle Can challenge has been adding more fresh fruit and veg to my diet. Most of the other changes have been negatives, reducing this, limiting that and cutting down on the other. To help with the fruit and veg I’ve signed up for weekly organic bags, as I explained in That’s what apples look like!

This weeks veggie bag had another new to me vegetable, a bag full of leaves labelled CHARD. Like the purple sprouting broccolli it’s something I’d heard of but never cooked with. I’m getting braver with new things, and am spending a lot of time searching online for recipes which include whatever’s in this weeks bag. Last week I made both Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins and Dark Chocolate Rhubarb Brownies, to the delight of my kids who’d begun to worry that the healthy eating meant I’d never bake again. It was a challenge not to forget being healthy and eat them all once I’d made them, but I coped!

I found this recipe for spaghetti with cauliflower and garlicky swiss chard gremolata after much browsing on Pinterest, and clicked through despite not knowing what ‘gremolata’ was. I was heartened by the fact that I had most of the ingredients to hand, and totally won over by it being described as an ‘oops recipe’. This perfectly describes most of my creations in the kitchen! 

There were minor challenges though, and its a mark of how comfortable I’m getting at cooking and improvising that I stuck with it. 

Challenge 1. No spaghetti. I am the sort of person who can’t eat soup without slopping it down my chest, so really messy food like spaghetti is rarely on my shopping list. I replaced it with 300g of wholemeal penne pasta.

Challenge 2. No food processor. As I mentioned way back in Kneading to Stop Thinking there was an incident with a dog, a hob and an almost fire. I’ve still not replaced the broken bits, partly due to lack of funds but also due to lack of motivation, to be honest I’ve been managing fine without. 

This recipe calls for the cauliflower and chard to be pulsed until the bits are the size of grains of rice, so I had to adapt this to my food processor free kitchen. 

The cauliflower seemed straightforward – just grate it. I decided to try the finer side of the grater, but one floret took ages, and even on a bank holiday there’s a limit to the time I want to spend in the kitchen, so I decided grating the florets on the coarse side and the stalks on the fine side led to near enough rice sized pieces. After 10 minutes the cauliflower looked like this:

The chard I decided just to chop as finely as I could with scissors, using the effective but not very high finesse method of grabbing a handful and chopping slivers off the edges until it was all done. 

I also had to consider how much chard was a bunch? One handful, two handfuls, the whole bag? This is the sort of lack of detail that used to terrify me away from new recipes, but the more I cook the more confident I am at just giving it a go and hoping. I decided as I’d only had a small cauliflower to use the whole bag of chard.

The chopped chard looked like this, and I added a dash of hope that the pieces being much bigger than rice sized wouldn’t affect the taste too much!

My only other alteration to the recipe was to skip the red pepper flakes as I didn’t have any.

I think it turned out well, if a little more bodged and less beautiful than the original! The family agreed it was very tasty. Because I’d used less pasta it made 5 portions rather than 6, so my partner and I now need to decide who’ll be the antisocial one breathing garlic fumes over our colleagues tomorrow! It’s definitely one I’ll make again, when chard and cauliflower next appear in my veg bag. 

Count Spatula approves!