Do you remember the children’s book The Magic Pudding? The star of the story was a grumpy pudding who could walk and talk and, if I remember correctly, play cards. Magical, because he could be any flavour that you wished for and he never ran out. I don’t recall all the finer details (and possibly have confused bits with Bottersnikes and Gumbles), but I think there was a fair bit of tramping about in the bush, card-playing by the fire, a koala with impressive whiskers, tea drinking and, of course, eating of the foul-tempered pudding. Must have been Australian. Anyhow, rainbow chard is just like the magic pudding, without the attitude or the ability to taste like golden-syrup dumplings (now there’s an idea). Months ago, late Summer if I remember correctly, I filled a little seed-planter with seed raising mix, scattered some seeds in and waited. In the early days I was super excited just to see the seedlings pushing their way up out of the soil. I tended them carefully, watering regularly, chatting to them and marveling at how the colours of the plant were so distinct, even in miniature. They grew strong enough to transplant into the raised vegie bed out the back, sheltering under bird-net to guard them from Agnes. By this time it was late Autumn and I was distracted by other projects, so I just left them to fend for themselves. They grew and grew and grew some more. I snapped off great pot’s full for wintery soups, ricotta pies and braising. I pick it by the handful for the chooks. I even pickled some (don’t bother). I cut bags of the stuff to give to people (anyone who’d take it, The Granny, her work colleagues, the man next door, the woman at the post office). And there’s still masses of it. Really, masses. We’re going to be eating it forever. So now I’m trying to find cunning ways to squeeze it into any dish going.
Adapted from a Valli Little recipe that appeared in delicious. in July 2007
1.2 kilograms of butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into ~2cm chunks
a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon of chopped sage, plus about 20 leaves to serve
1/4 of a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
350 grams of ricotta
1 large saucepan of fresh rainbow chard (AKA silverbeet/swiss chard/five-colour silverbeet)
1 cup of grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
8 fresh lasagne sheets
100 grams of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced)
Butter up a baking dish (square or oval, it won’t matter as long as it’s about 1.5 litres in volume and you don’t mind fiddling about with trimming the lasagne sheets to fit)
Put your chopped pumpkin on a baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the chilli flakes.
Cover with foil and put in the oven for about 1/2 an hour, until tender. Allow to cool a little.
While this is cooking, rinse your rainbow chard. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same large saucepan over low-medium heat. Put the chard in still wet, adding it a handful at a time, pausing between handfuls to allow it to reduce in bulk. Cook until shrunk right down and tender. Tip into a sieve to drain. Set aside.
Buzz the pumpkin, sage and nutmeg in a food processor until smoothish (no need to overdo it). Set aside.
Clean the food processor.
Process the ricotta, egg, parmesan and rainbow chard until well combined.
Lay 2 lasagne sheets on the base of your baking dish. Spread with half the pumpkin. Lay on another 2 lasagne sheets. Spread with half the ricotta/chard mix. Repeat.
Sprinkle extra grated parmesan over the final ricotta/chard layer. Cover with baking paper and foil.
Bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 15 minutes. When nicely golden, take out of the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
In the mean time, put the butter, extra sage leaves and walnuts into a small frypan/saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter is just foaming.
Serve the lasagne drizzled with the sage butter. This is nothing like traditional, meaty lasagne. It’s rich and buttery, with the beautiful contrasting texture of the walnuts, the heat from the chilli and the subtle but certain flavour of the sage. The rainbow chard doesn’t stand out, but you’ll know it’s there, and you can wallow in the virtue of its dark green leafy goodness, while you mop butter from your chin.