Spring Gardening and Green Recipes

‘Eat your greens’ was a familiar reproach from the elders around my childhood dinner table, as the boiled beans lay listlessly on the plate at the end of a meal. My father tried to lighten the mood by inventing riddles to encourage or distract the young diners, “Beans were made for queens”, or rhymes about historical events. There was nothing appetising or appealing about cooked greens in the Australian kitchens of the 1950s and 60s. All the culinary devotion was given to the meat, the centre piece of all our meals except on Fridays. The range of greens was fairly limited and included beans, peas, cabbage, brussel sprouts and lettuce, that is, iceberg lettuce. Broccoli, broccoletti, cima di rape, kale, cavolo nero, fennel, asparagus, broad beans, radicchio, bok choy, chinese broccoli, choy sum, wong bok and the vast variety of lettuces came to Australia much later. Silverbeet appeared occasionally, always served under a blanket of bechamel. Parsley was the main herb grown, the curly variety used to decorate scrambled eggs or a casserole, never featuring in its own right as a pesto or in tabouleh. Basil Genovese was still to make itself known and loved, followed by Thai and Greek basil. And then came Japanese herbs and leaves, shiso and mustard greens, mizuna, as well as the wild pungent rocket, rucola selvatica, that pops up everywhere, anise, coriander, lemon grass, the green tops of turnips and radish, the leaves of pumpkins, and the chicory family of greens.

All the greens of the world have their moment of glory in my garden and I would be lost without them. Most grow wild now. They are the star of many a dish, or are the inspiration for others. My green garden is most prolific in Spring and now, as I pull out the last of the broad beans, and watch the parsley and silverbeet bolt towards heaven, I’ll share a few simple green recipes.

Silverbeet and haloumi cheese fritters in the making.

These silverbeet and haloumi fritters were popular for lunch. They are fast and easy to prepare. I’m tempted to call them gozleme fritters as the taste is similar to the filling of a Turkish gozleme. Some oil softened onion could be a good addition to the mix. I always keep a tub of brined Haloumi in the fridge and find that buying it bulk in a Middle Eastern store is economical. A big tub lasts a year.

Silverbeet and Haloumi Fritters

  • 180g haloumi cheese, coarsely grated
  • 2 cups silverbeet, finely shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons mint, finely shredded
  • 1 lemon, finely zested
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2  Tablespoons EV olive oil

Grate the haloumi on a box grater ( large hole) into a bowl. Remove the white stalks from the silver beet and finely shred then add to the bowl. (Save the stalks for a soup or gratin). Add the mint, lightly beaten eggs, and flour. Mix well. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Scoop large tablespoons into the pan, and slightly flatten as you go. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Gently turn to brown both sides and place them on a plate with paper towels to absorb the oil. Serve with a lemon wedge or yoghurt.

Smashed fava beans, haloumi, mint and lemon.

The broad beans starred in many a recipe during Spring, but this dish, also using haloumi, was popular.

Smashed Broad Beans with Haloumi, mint and lemon.

  • up to 1 kilo broad beans
  • 150-200 g haloumi
  • one garlic clove
  • sea salt, black pepper
  • EV olive oil
  • mint
  • lemon wedges

Shell the beans and cook briefly in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and submerge them in cold water to stop the cooking. Remove the skins by popping the green centres out between your thumb and forefinger. (This is an easy but tedious task, and one I hand over to my kitchen hand, Signore Tranquillo, who is an uncomplaining soul.) Smash most of the beans in a mortar and pestle, adding some finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil. Meanwhile fry rectangular pieces of haloumi in hot oil. They don’t take long to turn golden. Prepare the serving dish with salad leaves, then the smashed fava beans, then the fried haloumi and torn mint leaves. Place lemon  wedges on the side.

Broad beans getting gently smashed, leaving a few whole.

I have a few more wonderful green dishes to share with you dear reader, but am waiting on one of my taste testers to give her final verdict on my latest silverbeet invention. Until then, addio, and happy green cooking and I mean that literally.

My girls grazing in a large grassy orchard. They love our leftovers and hang around along the fence line waiting for their daily greens. The eggs taste sensational. Greens and eggs go well together.
Last of the broadies and broccolini Calabrese which keeps on giving.

43 thoughts on “Spring Gardening and Green Recipes”

  1. It sounds me me as if we had similar childhood vegetable experiences. I was repulsed by overcooked brussels sprouts and cauliflower and old broad beans boiled in their skins. It was such a revelation to rediscover them, prepared with care. Love the sound of those silverbeet fritters.

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    1. Hi Sandra, Those old boiled veggies weren’t very appealing, though often the Cauliflower was saved by the cheese sauce. Broad beans in those awful grey skins were bad. The silver beet fritters are a nice addition to the green fritter family. Oh and BTW, I noticed your lovely post on your travels in Cambodia and must return there to comment. Welcome back to blog land, I missed you.

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    2. I think 50s, 60s and even 70s ideas of cooking veg were not good! I, too, hated grey tough broad beans and overlooked cabbage! Oh, and I seem to have ‘unfollowed’ you, Sandra…shall go rectify

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  2. Yes, what a pre-Yule present to have you back after Sandra reappeared! Having been drawn to Instagram by well-meaning friends, at least I knew she was well 🙂 ! Love this post tho’ have never understood why Australian children almost had to be bribed to eat vegetables ! Coming from Europe where we could not wait to grab the fork . . . it may have been the boiling with no spices and herbs ? My daughters were born here: I swear I do not remember one complaint ! Absolutely love the sound of the fritters . . . and if I can find a big container of brined haloumi which will last even six months, I’ll be in your debt forever 🙂 !

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    1. It is easy to understand why many older Australians experienced a distaste for vegetables. There is no polite way to describe their treatment. They were cooked in salted water and had the shit boiled out of them, as was the Anglo- Celtic custom of the day, before our culinary world and narrow minded world view was blown apart by the culinary traditions of European migrants, followed by those from the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Turkey then Vietnam, China, and elsewhere. My children grew up with a different palate for vegetables.
      You were lucky Eha.

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  3. Thank you for these tasty additions to my ‘eat your greens’ recipes! I hadn’t thought of combining silver beet and haloumi. Interestingly I had a conversation about broad beans just a couple of hours ago. A friend commented on the broad beans that are still growing in my front garden. She said she didn’t like them because as a child she had to eat the horrible, grey, boiled to death variety. She was more interested when I told her that I shell them and sprinkled them in salads and stir fries. Now I will be able to tempt her with some smashed broad beans!

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  4. Ditto on those soggy Brussel sprouts. They were a childhood nightmare and the same could be said for waterlogged cabbage and broccoli. Winter in Greece is the best time for all sorts of greens, both cultivated and wild. We gorge on them. I like your fritter recipe and might try it with stamnigathi (spiny chicory from Crete).

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  5. Francesca, we seem to have had similar childhood culinary experiences, except mine was in the southern US. I do miss my large garden, but my small patio garden is enjoyable. I’m already planning for next spring. Those are three great recipes you’ve shared and that silverbeet and haloumi fritter recipe will be made soon. I bet those lovely ladies produce some mighty fine eggs on that garden diet.

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    1. Ah yes Ron, there are a few of us around from that grey veggie era. Nice to have moved on, although you have moved on literally to a far away place with wonderful food. Silverbeet ( chard) is one of those things that most people can grow- its a handy self sowing thing and I often encourage those with no veggie plot to stick a rainbow chard or two in the middle of their flower gardens. Yes, my girls are spoilt.

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    1. Hi Beck, Lucky escapee from the bad veggie era. The tubs contain one kilo of Halloumi. They cost around $14. I also buy it loose in Middle Eastern delis for around $14-$16 a kilo and then sink it in a well brined plastic box. Still testing how long this home brined version lasts, but sometimes I just feel like grabbing $7 worth. When you compare this with the price of those little plastic wrapped pieces in the supermarket, you’ll find it’s worth the drive to those suburbs specialising in Middle Eastern ingredients. In Melbourne, this means Brunswick. I am sure there would be similar areas in Brisbane.

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  6. It makes me laugh a bittersweet sort of chuckle that I now eat more and better veges… diet in general that do those who tortured me with their uninspired snd unloved efforts during my childhood. The worst offence, spinach dressed in white vinegar which I was always in trouble for refusing to eat. There’s not much -well prepared- I won’t eat. Those fritters look amazing, and I’m very sad that I forgot to plant broadbeans this year. Our chooks have also been delighted by the bags of green offerings I’ve been bringing them from our Tafe garden, hilarious and heartwarming watching them get in amongst the leaves.

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