Do you remember your mum saying ‘Eat your greens’? Followed immediately by those discouraging words ‘They’re good for you.’ Nothing about how delicious they were, nothing about the preparation (ie ‘I’ve stir-fried them in orange juice’), and certainly no interesting background facts.
Did you know that silver beet has a noble past? It’s one of the vegetables recorded as growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; it appeared in the writings of Aristotle; and it was prominent in George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon.
And yes, leafy greens — brassicas — are good for you. They are packed with vitamins A and C plus calcium, fibre, and some iron and folate. They are also rich in a sulphur containing compounds responsible for the pungent smell and spicy flavour.
Brassicas — members of the mustard family — are one of the most commonly grown veg and one of the most nutritious. There are 37 brassica species including turnips, radishes and horseradish. However, cabbage, broccoli, spinach and kale are on the menu today.
Superfood kale is a little more sophisticated than old-fashioned silver beet and is surprisingly high in calcium. Use as a cabbage substitute in stir-fries and salads or stir into soups and stews. It can also be dried to add nutritional pizzazz to smoothies.
COLCANNON WITH BACON & EGGS
Easy and economical comfort food.
300g potatoes, peeled and chopped
250g (2 cups) cabbage, finely shredded
2 rashers streaky bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes until tender.
Meanwhile, blanch the cabbage in boiling water or the microwave until crisp-tender. Drain in a sieve and run under cold water. Drain well again.
Cut the bacon into 2cm pieces. Pan-fry in the oil until crisp. Add the spring onions and cabbage and heat through.
Drain the potatoes. Add the butter and mash well. Add the cabbage mixture. Keep warm.
Lightly poach the eggs in simmering water. Serve the cabbage mixture in two bowls making a small well in the centre. Using a slotted spoon, place the poached eggs in the wells. Season. Serves 2.
Best served hot.
Dough: 2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
25g butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup finely grated tasty cheese
1 1/4 cups milk
Filling: 50g cream cheese, softened
1 cup each: finely chopped broccoli florets, shredded tasty cheese
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
Preheat the oven to 210°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and cheese in a food processor. Mix until well combined.
Place in a bowl and stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently to combine then roll out to form a 30cm x 25cm rectangle.
Spread with the softened cream cheese. Top evenly with the broccoli, shredded cheese and shallot. Roll up firmly from a long side. Cut into 2.5cm rounds.
Place cut-side down on the prepared tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden. Makes about 12.
CREAMED SPINACH WITH GRUYERE
This deliciously decadent spinach is excellent served with grills or roast chicken.
250g spinach, washed, thick stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons plain flour
100ml each: milk, cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
50g gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Place the spinach in a large microwave bowl. Cover and cook for 2 minutes or until wilted. Cool a little then squeeze dry.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour. Slowly stir in the combined milk and cream, cooking until thickened. Season with nutmeg. Stir in the gruyere and heat until melted. Add the spinach and heat for 1-2 minutes.
Tip into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan. Place a under a hot grill and cook until bubbling. Serves 4.