Saturday, November 8, 2008

Harvest Meal: Egg & Chard Curry

I'd been ignoring the gorgeous rainbow chard out in the garden for quite a while. During the summer, I diligently processed large batches of it and stored them away in the freezer. But I quickly tired of this because the cleaning process for chard was so very labor intensive. The undersides of the leaves can get very dirty during a heavy rain. The dirt splatters up from the ground and then sticks to the crinkly undersides.

Fortunately, chard can handle being ignored so long as it gets enough water, and I think the benign neglect even helped the dirt problem. You see, as new leaves formed in the center of the plant, the older and larger leaves that hung around, unpicked, shielded the new inner leaves from that dirty splatter. Ignoring the chard worked in our favor after a while. So when it was time to harvest a big pile for a favorite curry, the cleaning was a little easier this time.

Egg & chard curry is one of my husband's favorite meals. I make absolutely no claims to authenticity with this dish; it's just something I came up with that we both really enjoy. It tastes even better to us when we use our own chard and garlic, plus eggs from our own hens. I'll describe how I make it.

Ingredient list - quantities (quite) flexible

Chard, several bunches worth
clarified butter (ghee) or clear cooking oil for sauteing
2 onions, medium diced
3" piece of ginger, peeled and grated or minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Madras curry powder, medium hot, or your preferred curry powder
salt and pepper
tomato paste, about 3-4 tablespoons
14 oz. can coconut milk, unsweetened
juice of 2 lemons, about 4-6 tablespoons
4-6 eggs

optional garnish: chopped cilantro or finely sliced scallion greens


You will need a surprisingly large pile of chard. It cooks down very significantly, so you'll want a lot to start with. If you're buying it in the store, you'll need at least three bunches, and four or five is better. Wash the chard, separate the leafy parts from the stalk and rib, and chop the stalk/rib portions into 1/2" pieces. Cut the leafy parts into a 1" dice. Set these aside in separate bowls.

Preheat a very large skillet over medium heat. When hot, cook the onions in a generous amount of clarified butter or cooking oil. Let the onions soften without browning, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue cooking and stirring for two more minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons of Madras curry powder, or to taste. Stir the ingredients around so that they are coated with the curry powder and all the curry powder is moistened by the oil. Cook for three minutes, stirring often, and reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning the curry powder.

Stir in the chopped ribs and stalk of the chard, and increase the heat to medium high. Cook for several minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften and release some liquid. Add the chopped leafy parts and stir well. When all of the leafy chard has begun to wilt and release liquid, add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate it into the ingredients.

Shake the can of coconut milk, open it and add it to the skillet. Rinse the can with water to claim the last bit of coconut milk and add that to the skillet. There should be enough liquid in the pan to at least half way submerge all the solid ingredients. Add more water if necessary.

Add a little black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the chard to continue cooking in the added liquid for 3-5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Taste the curry and adjust the salt and other spices to your personal preference. If you want to add more curry powder, simmer at least 3 additional minutes before proceeding.

Now take a metal spoon and scoop up some curry near, but not right up against, the edge of the pan. Set the filled spoon down on top of the curry without spilling it. There should be enough liquid in the pan so that it pools into the area where you just scooped out the solids. Crack an egg into that little hole, and place the chard you scooped out on top of the egg. Repeat this process around the edge of the pan, keeping each egg in its own hole, somewhat separated by the rest of the ingredients. Don't worry if the whites run a bit. When the edge of the pan is full of eggs, add one more egg in the center.

Reduce the heat to the barest simmer for 8 minutes and let the eggs poach undisturbed. Gently peek under the chard and check the consistency of the eggs. If you want the yolks hard, continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. If the consistency is good or nearly so, turn off the heat and let the curry rest for a few more minutes.

Serve over steamed basmati rice, or with Indian flat breads. Garnish with the cilantro or scallion greens if desired. Yum! Serves 4-6. Leftovers are good, but if you don't want to overcook the eggs, you may want to fish them out and gently heat them after the other ingredients are warmed through.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that sounds delicious! Unfortunately, we just pulled the last of our chard :-( The chickens enjoyed it at least.

Mulching the chard with the hay from your cold frame next year will keep it much cleaner. Wait until the plant is large enough to withstand slugs if that's an issue before mulching too heavily. The mulch prevents the splashback onto the leaves.

Kate said...

Ali, I've been having one of those "Duh!" moments...for hours. I can't fathom why I never mulched the chard. I know I've even read about mulching for this reason. Thank you for pointing out what should have been obvious to me all along. This is why I love writing this blog - I get so much good input and advice from such knowledgeable readers. Guess I *will* be planting just as much chard next year!

We give our hens lots of damaged chard leaves too.

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