So Spring is on its way and I’ve got the vegbox to prove it. The spring greens are out in almost full force and after the endless squashes, root veg and red cabbages of winter they are a very welcome sight. The complete opposite from all those roots, optimistic little spring greens are there to remind us what is just around the corner. Sunny weather full of veg that needs next to nothing done to it to shine, these are the greens that will see us through till that warmer weather makes an appearance.
Let me spell it out for you in case you hadn’t noticed. I love spring greens. But then again, who doesn’t? And not just for what they represent. They have a lovely spring like sweetness about them, they are cheap as chips as this time of year and they’ll do both you and your wallet the power of good. Like all leafy greens they are full of fibre, low in calories and provide large amounts of heart health promoting folate. (The clue is in the name. The word folate comes from the latin word for leaf ‘folium’ as does foliage. A good rule of thumb; if it’s leafy, then it’s usually packed with folate) But as a hard working brassica, their benefits don’t stop there. Full of calcium and vitamin K, they’ll boost your bone strength, their vitamin C and E levels will give your winter worn immune system a nice little perk up and their anti-oxidants will help reduce the risk of cancers. They are a great addition to any stir fries, or creamy pasta sauces as well as a perfect side, lightly steamed or maybe sautéed quickly in olive oil. And (the piece de resistance in my book), like their more tightly wound cabbage cousins, they go perfectly with beans. Always a great option when fickle spring does the dirty on you and runs away again with its tail between its legs just after you have returned your winter boots to the cupboard and brought out the shoes which haven’t made an appearance since October. Those beans provide the comfort factor to this dish, creamy but still healthy and the greens remind you that you’ve nearly made it. Along with the potatoes you’ve got a delicious and complete meal on your hands, especially if you serve it alongside some nicely dressed tomatoes. And I can happily report that should you have any, leftovers will warm up a treat again for a meat free Tuesday or even Wednesday.
Spring Greens and Flageolet Gratin
450g spring greens and spinach (your choice what mix you use, I use mostly spring greens but that’s just me)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 egg yolks
800g cooked flageolet beans (tinned will do if you are pushed for time)
25g butter (to top it off with)
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
Start off by preheating your to 200 deg. C and peeling your potatoes and parboiling them whole for 6 minutes, no more.
Roughly shred your spring greens then melt the butter in a large saucepan. Drop the greens into the pan and wilt for 3 minutes or so, then chuck in any spinach you might be using. Grate a good pinch of nutmeg over and throw in the crushed garlic. Cook for a further minute or so, until the spinach just begins to wilt then take off the heat.
Beat together the egg yolks and cream and season well with salt and pepper.
When the greens mixture is cool stir the beans into the egg and then add the veg.
Using a mandolin, thinly slice the potatoes and put just over half in the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish, then top off with the bean mixture and finally the rest of the potatoes. Dot with the extra butter then cook for around 45 minutes.
Serve with a tomato salad as a delicious vegetarian main meal, or as a side dish as you see fit.