Table of contents       Previous VegeTale       Next VegeTale   

Silverbeet: Australian spinach (Wot's in a name)

Silverbeet drawing

Oh, the naiveté of young love when one is so besotted that all one's critical faculties are suspended in favour of what the loved one thinks and wants.

My Albanian friend taught me to make his culture's version of a spinach pie (termed a burek), claiming that all other versions were to be discarded in its favour, especially those by Turks and Greeks, who I seem to remember, committed heresy by cooking the spinach first. "Ends up like cooked ants," he said.

Only a broom handle could be used to roll the dough, which had to be spread over the entire table, cut into segments, buttered, combined again and then rolled out six times. The 'spinach' was shredded, mixed with eggs, cheese (surprisingly, grated cheddar, not feta), seasoned and placed raw in a pie dish lined and topped with pastry. Exhausted after all that rolling and on tenterhooks that the cooking time and temperature had been as proscribed, the moment of truth was when he tasted my efforts. No matter how careful I had been there was always something lacking, according to he who knew perfection and practised it.

These days I'm so grateful for packaged filo pastry and I find pre-cooking the spinach gives a more rounded and smoother texture, not at all reminiscent of dead ants as the raw shredded spinach seemed to result in. And further, I prefer feta or a variety of cheeses to the insisted-on cheddar.

There is a lot to be said for regaining one's own judgment when cooking, as in other aspects of life, even if it comes with the downside of realising that no matter how wonderful one's lover is, he or she will not be perfect in all things. And even if they were, one is still entitled to 'do it my way'.

Brian Shepherd
Launceston, Tasmania

Silverbeet drawing small Cheese and spinach pie

      Filo pastry
      Big bunch of spinach
      1 small onion, cut up
      30 g butter
      3 kinds of cheese, including tasty cheddar and parmesan
      2 small garlic cloves, crushed
      1 egg

Cook the spinach, then cut it up with a sharp knife and drain thoroughly. Put it to one side and let it cool. Fry onion in a little oil and the butter. Combine the cooled spinach - there should be about 2 handfuls - with the onion, cheeses and garlic.

Use two sheets of filo, overlapping in the middle. Put the spinach mixture onto the pastry, and wrap it, making a long shape, and crimp the edges. Put into a loaf-shaped tin lined with oven paper, with the paper poking out the top. Brush with beaten egg and bake in a 200°C oven for about 40 minutes or until brown and the pastry is cooked.