During 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.
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.
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.
Hunza Pie, the old way.
- 150 gr wholemeal plain flour
- 75 gr butter
- pinch of salt
- one egg yolk
- two tablespoons of icy cold water.
- 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
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.