In that west-facing big old 1960s kitchen that filled with gold from the lowering sun on summer evenings, silverbeet was the main competitor to cabbage in the battle of the boiled greens. We ate great fleur-de-lys sheaves of silverbeet, bought at the Victoria Market, and cooked in a big pot on a cream Chef stove until the white stalks had turned almost black from the leached leaf pigment. Cabbage on the other hand assumed an almost transparent appearance and had a faintly herbal aroma. It squeaked when you ate it. These over-cooked culinary relics are satirised by sophisticated modern foodies, but a hungry teenager took great satisfaction in the unadorned plainness of plenty.
My mother borrowed her rustic boiling technique from her own mother who, as a teenager on the family farm near Corowa had cooked for farm workers who were not fussed with sauces, blanching or exotic accompaniments. Not that they had a choice: the cook couldn't be fussed either. Nothing was tarted up: gravy for the roast mutton and salt for the vegetables. Later, simplicity was spurned when post-war affluence put overseas travel within reach of ordinary people, who discovered exotic ingredients and techniques in foreign lands.
I cooked the following recipe the other night but sometimes my inner Quaker yearns for the unadorned plainness of simpler food.
Silverbeet and three-cheese pastries.
Silverbeet's rustic earthiness is tamed and turned into a creamy Mediterranean marvel in this cheese-laden, pastry-encased taste sensation.
Shear the green leaves of a bunch of silverbeet from its white stalks (such a waste) and chop roughly. Boil and drain. Transfer to a large bowl and combine with a tub of cream cheese, half a cup of soft goat's cheese, half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, a finely chopped onion, two cloves of garlic and an egg. Plenty of salt and pepper.
Allow several sheets of frozen puff pastry to thaw; arrange filling in one diagonal half of each and fold the other half over to make a triangle. Transfer carefully to a lined baking tray. Thumb-press to seal, making a scalloped edge. Brush with melted butter, scatter with sesame seeds, and bake 45 minutes or until browned.