I first came across this idea in Michel Guerard’s imperishable Cuisine Minceur first published in France in – yikes – 1976 – and in Britain in 1977. I have made very minor changes, principally adding the zucchini because I had some Zucchini Romanesco, which are No 1 in the courgettes flavour stakes and which keep their texture when cooked. It is in all essentials the original dish, and a brilliant way of using tomatoes you’ve grown yourself or bought.
16 big leaves of chard
500g fresh tomatoes
2 medium zucchini
8 sprigs of thyme
salt & pepper
Blanch the chard leaves for 1-2 minutes in boiling water and then plunge into cold water. Drain. Carefully lay out on a drying cloth or kitchen towel to dry. Cut out the central rib.
Peel & chop the shallot. Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Fry the shallot until softening. In the meantime, chop up the zucchini and tomatoes quite finely (I can’t be bothered to peel and deseed them). Add them to the shallot. Cook at a simmer for about 30 minutes, until a good deal of the tomato liquid has evaporated. Season.
Turn on the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Line 4 individual oiled moulds – ramekins are fine for this, although I like the little frying pans I bought in Spain some years ago – with overlapping chard leaves, leaves a good part of the leaves flopping over the edge. Lay two springs of thyme on the base. Fill up with the tomato mixture. Cover over with those parts of the leaves flopping over the edge, and then cover again with foil. Alternatively, you can use one large mould. Put on a tray and slide into the oven for 20 minutes. Turn out and delight that something so easy can taste so good.