Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

23.9.09

Silverbeet: one word or two?

No-one seems to know, but I prefer one.

Spelling aside, there is a forest of it in the new garden bed we cut into the front lawn last year to save money; or rather, divert money from buying vegetables to watering the garden bed. (Latest water bill: water usage $25; utility charges $160. And they want us to save water?)

Don't grow carrots. Their yield is not worth the investment in garden space. They are cheap anyway. Cos lettuce: brilliant. We had a constant supply of leaves for Caesar salad through autumn and early winter. Rocket: far too much. Plant rocket in between ornamentals. It's a waste of vegetable garden space. Which brings me to silverbeet.

I grew up on silverbeet, the earthy-tasting green otherwise known as Swiss Chard and probably sixty-three other names. Silverbeet always entered the house riding rampant, like a triumphant knight's fleur-de-lys, on top of the box of vegetables my father walked in with after his Tuesday visits to the Victoria market in the 1960s.

My mother just cooked it plain, never fooling around with garlic or pepper or chilli flakes or cream or anything like that. Boiled. In the colander. Help yourself. We did.

But this is today, and today we know better. We are educated. We are multicultural. We are people of the world. We threw our mother's cookbook into the recycling bin years ago. Instead, we cook what we saw five minutes ago in some glossy food magazine costing $14.95 at the newsstand that we will throw out next month. Or on a television show hosted by a person who is famous because they are on television.

Exactly.

*

Spanakopita.

Rinse an entire bunch of silverbeet, ensuring all the bugs, soil, grubs, snails and grit have made their exit. I did say it was out of the garden.

Melt it down slowly in a heavy pan with the moisture remaining on its leaves, in a little oil, with a chopped onion, a clove of garlic and a shower of pepper.

When done, press out liquid and transfer to a large bowl. Add cheese to about two-thirds the weight of the silverbeet. Guess, because you can't go wrong. Crumbled feta with ricotta is often used; we made it with two parts feta to one part kefalograviera. Hell, you can use Kraft cheddar or Bega Bar-B-Cubes if you wish. I must try it with King Island blue one day. That would be delicious.

Cut filo sheets into strips about three inches by nine. Place a spoonful of silverbeet mixture in corner of filo nearest you. Fold the end of the shorter edge to the longer side, ensuring the mixture is enclosed. Brush top of fold with melted butter. Now fold the opposite way, and brush again in turn, to the end. Seal with butter.

Bake until filo is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling. Twenty minutes in most ovens is more than enough on 200.

My mother would have just boiled it. I miss that taste; mingled with mashed potato next to a pile of white-peppered mince stew.

6 comments:

A Melbourne Girl said...

I still love silverbeet with mashed potatoes, peas and a good "stew". It's delicious. I've also used it to put in small volovonts (spelling) small pastry things anyway. Chop it up and cook it, blend it, mix it with a cheesy sauce and fill the pastries . It's quite nice
lesley

Ange said...

Yum, my first ever silverbeet crop is nearly ready & I cant wait to use it - this is one dish I will be trying out

jo said...

We once made a dessert of it based on an Italian recipe with raisins/sultanas and filo dough (should really be strudel dough) rolled up, baked and dusted in icing sugar. Very good.
I had to look up those Bega bar-B-Cubes. Rather amusing that.

kitchen hand said...

Ah yes, Lesley, I remember volauvents - I remember burning my mouth on them at parties where they were always served straight out of the oven.

Ange, it was a good year for silverbeet.

Jo, the filo sounds good. What region? The filo sounds north but the fruit southern.

jo said...

I fib! It was French, not Italian and called Torte de blette with apples. I am guessing from the Alsace region or thereabouts.

kitchen hand said...

That was my guess, Jo.