Hunza Pie to the Rescue. Silverbeet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the 70s, a little paperback vegetarian cookbook – Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé – was all the rage.  It was a political book, the first to argue an environmental approach to vegetarianism, that ‘world hunger is not caused by a lack of food but by ineffective food policy.’  As a cookbook, it took a rather scientific approach to food, and emphasised combining grains and nuts with sesame seeds and so on, to provide sufficient protein. It was hugely popular at the time and marked a shift in my cooking, from the earlier influence of Elizabeth David, to a wholefood approach. Since then, my cooking has acquired many layers of influence, all coming together in the food of today, but a little of that simple wholesomeness remains.

some simple ingredients
some simple ingredients

As I consider the rampant forest of silverbeet/chard/bietola in the vegetable garden, a classic dish from this era springs back to mind, the Hunza Pie, along with faded memories of our old Kombi van heading towards the then undeveloped hippy havens of Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, and us, dressed in flared jeans with something to smoke.

pie asssembled
pie asssembled

If you also are inundated with silverbeet, I recommend this wholesome classic to you. It might be a tad hippified, but it’s still good.

25 minutes in the oven
25 minutes in the oven

Hunza Pie, the old way.

The Pastry

  • 150 gr wholemeal plain flour
  • 75 gr butter
  • pinch of salt
  • one egg yolk
  • two tablespoons of icy cold water.

The filling

  • 6 or so large stems of silver beet, stems and leaves cut up separately
  • half a small red onion, chopped finely
  • 100g cooked brown rice ( do this as you make the pastry)
  • 130 gr tasty cheddar cheese
  • one egg
  • pepper

Make the pastry by whizzing the flour and butter in a processor, then adding the egg yolk, process, then add a bit of the water until the pastry comes together in a ball. Pat out flat, and wrap in cling wrap to rest in the fridge for an hour.

Remove pastry. Prepare and grease an 8-9 inch pie dish or quiche tin, roll out the pastry and lay it in the tin. Trim the edges. As this is a simple rustic dish, there is no need to blind bake the pastry. The filling is fairly dry so the case is able to cook crisply
in one go.

Cook the chopped silver beet stems in ample salted water for 8 minutes, then add the chopped leaves for another two minutes. Drain well and squeeze dry. Mix the silver beet in a bowl with the remaining filling ingredients, holding back some of the cheese. Fill the pastry shell, smooth the top, then sprinkle the reserved cheese on the top.

Preheat oven to 220c. Add the pie and turn down oven to 175c ( fan on) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with a salad. Serves four. Leftovers make great work and school lunches.



27 thoughts on “Hunza Pie to the Rescue. Silverbeet.”

  1. Love it, my mum has always made hunza pie. Still does sometimes. This brings back memories of her health food co-op days and the Moosewood Cookbook. I have never seen Diet for a Small Planet, I will have to ask if she had a copy.


  2. [huge laughter] Was there just a few years later: Mullum, Byron, Nimbin etc . . . tho’ hate to admit I lived on Ocean Shores 🙂 ! Loved the Hunza pie then, still make it now both for health and fun . . .


  3. In Italian region Liguria they have a similar pie… the pastry is different, but the filling is almost the same. I already know how good are all those ingredients combined together, I would die for a slice of your cake, I’m serious!


  4. Love old recipes that stand the test of time. I guess you could enjoy a bigger slice as it is not loaded with cream and eggs. Not having to bake the pastry shell beforehand can be a welcoming change when time is not on your side. Looks delicious 🙂


  5. Oh yes, the 70s!!! i was just thinking about Hunza Pie a few days ago as a huge bunch of silverbeet sat on the kitchen bench. It will definitely make a comeback in household in the next week or two. Thanks for the encouragement Francesca


  6. It’s a wonder I can remember them. Wild days, with a serious job and two children, it went in a whiirl. The silver beet is growing out of brick paving as well as the garden. If i lived next door, you would have a daily bunch.


  7. Hi! Did you ever go to the cafe in Darlinghurst Sydney called The Health Food Centre? It was there in Oxford St in the mid 70’s. This is where we first had Hunza Pie. I’m trying to recapture the flavours of that exact pie. I’ve had 4 attempts. If only I could remember it’s distinctive flavour. I think the filling was very moist and the pastry was rather bland. Friends of mine claim it had a cheese topping others say cheese and sliced tomato. I’m sure I would have remembered sliced tomato as I was not fond of it at the time. I do recall it was quite deep and cooked in a slab type pan- it was a cafe after all. I lived just around the corner and introduced all my friends to it. Next week I’m going around to the home of one of those people and bringing my next attempt at Hunza Pie


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