A stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock and strata is the plural of it. A strata is also this dish made of layers of bread and eggs – it’s pretty easy to see where its name must have originated. With a few hot dog buns leftover and some kale in the fridge drawer to use up, I set about putting together a strata for our dinner.

Kale and Cheese Strata

But wait! Before you read to this point and think, oooooh, I’ve got to have that for dinner, well, stop right there. This recipe requires the strata to rest for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator so a bit of preplanning is required. This was for our dinner the following day. The rest in the fridge allows the bread to soak up all the egg and milk poured overtop. All that’s needed on the day of eating is to take the dish out of the fridge, preheat your oven and then pop it in and let it bake. Simples.

A Portion of Kale and Cheese Strata

The result was this golden puffy delight – all crusty on top and tender underneath. Think of it as a savoury bread pudding that’s very adaptable: I can picture lots of other vegetables and cheeses that would work here and can even imagine a bit of chopped ham or crumbled cooked sausage in the layers. We had it for dinner, with some charcuterie on the side, because I wanted to try the recipe midweek but it would also be perfect as part of an easy breakfast or brunch.

Kale and Cheese Strata
adapted from a recipe at smitten kitchen.
serves 3-4.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups/large handfuls of chopped kale
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups/large handfuls of cubed bread
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano)
3/4 cup grated/chopped gruyere
4 eggs
300ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Throw in the chopped onion and fry until softened.

Set a pot of water boiling and boil the chopped kale until softened. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can. (Another way to do this is to add the kale to the onion, pour in a little water and slap a lid on the pan – the kale will steam in there but it might take a while, as I learned.) Mix together with the cooked onion. Season with a little salt, pepper and the grated nutmeg.

Mix together the cheeses and set aside.

Take a small-medium baking dish and layer your ingredients in it: bread, kale/onion, cheese, bread, kale/onion, cheese, bread, kale/onion, cheese. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, mustard and milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the layers in the baking dish. Cover the dish with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

When you’re ready to eat it, take the dish out of the fridge and uncover it. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius. When the oven is hot, place the dish into the centre and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or however long it takes for your strata to be golden brown on top, hot all the way through (I slipped a knife into the middle and then tested how hot the knife tip was) and puffing up gently.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Every year, at about this time, a particularly important deadline comes up and I’ll be working many a late night to meet it. There’s barely time to cook, let alone blog about it. Quick meals, like this one I had last week, now become extremely common in our household. With some good bread on the side, the whole meal is put together in under half an hour.

Preparation

The ingredients are easy to store and most of it can probably already be found in your pantry or fridge. It’s also a very malleable recipe and things can be substituted here and there. No sherry? Use white wine instead. Prefer a spicy Italian sausage? Feel free to use that instead of chorizo. Beans instead of chickpeas? Why not?! Sure beats takeaway or a frozen pizza (which unfortunately, have also made up too many dinners this past week).

Chorizo, Chickpea and Kale Stew

Chorizo, Chickpea and Kale Stew
serves 2-3

100g chorizo, chopped coarsely
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil
1-2 tins of chickpeas (2 tins if you want it to go further)
a good sized bunch of kale
a splash of dry sherry
half a tin of plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add a good pour of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and saute until golden. Add the chorizo and continue sauteing until the chorizo starts to crisp and all the oil is now orange. Toss in the garlic and let it sizzle for a minute or two. Add a good splash of dry sherry and let that bubble and then reduce. When the sherry has all but bubbled away, add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and the tomatoes and the paprika. Add some water and let it all simmer gently.

In the meantime, clean your kale and strip the leaves from the hard stems. Shred the leaves roughly with a knife. Toss them into the pan, add more water if it looks like it needs it and then cover the pan. The kale will steam thanks to the water in the pan. Every 5 minutes or so, take a peek, give it a stir and add more water and cover and continue steaming if the kale is not done to your liking. You might prefer it with a bit more of a bite or perhaps you’d like it like you’d find vegetables in the Mediterranean – very, very soft. By this time, the chickpeas will also have softened a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with some nice bread.