It was a blustery kind of Sunday, coming up to the spring equinox. We rolled up to the farmers’ market at 11am, dodging the rain. Lennart Prinz had bags of his fabulous oyster mushrooms and huge paper bags of silverbeet.
Oyster mushrooms and spring silverbeet
We never seem to have enough silverbeet in my household – I can’t grow it fast enough to keep up with demand. (It’s the same with parsley.) Everyone says silverbeet is really easy to grow, but mine gets eaten by snails and then over-picked, and then it bolts to seed…
A lot of New Zealanders regard silverbeet as boring, but I think that depends very much on what you do with it. French and Italian cooks treasure it – it’s said to have originated in Sicily. In France it’s called “blette”, in Italy “bietola” (I think) and pretty much everyone else calls it Swiss chard, or just chard.
Silverbeet is especially good in spring, although it grows all year round in the Waikato (for anybody but me). I use it for pretty much any recipe that calls for spinach. The mature leaves are too strong to eat raw in salad though. French cooks prize the stems (or ribs) – sliced thinly and steamed they go well in a tart instead of leeks or asparagus.
Lennart Prinz’s oyster mushrooms
Here’s what I did with the silverbeet and ’shrooms:
Silverbeet with oyster mushrooms
1 bunch silverbeet – maybe 10 or 12 stalks, depending on how big they are
1 cup oyster mushrooms – about half the bag. I’m hoarding the rest for another day. You could also use any other kind of mushroom.
1/2 a small clove of garlic – not too much or it overwhelms the mushrooms
Wash silverbeet. Separate ribs from leaves and finely slice the ribs. Slice or tear the leaves into pieces.
Slice or tear up the larger mushrooms
Finely chop garlic
Add a splash of olive oil or a knob of butter to a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and stir for a minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add silverbeet ribs and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. Add the leaves and stir. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes or a bit longer, until the leaves have wilted.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
A splash of cream would be great too.
Some other easy ways to appreciate silverbeet:
Silverbeet with garlic and mustard
Mustard adds an x-factor to the green, earthy silverbeet taste.
1 bunch silverbeet
1 clove garlic (or more if you like)
Finely chop garlic.
Wash silverbeet. Separate ribs from leaves and finely slice the ribs. Slice or tear the leaves into pieces. Add a splash of olive oil or a small knob of butter to a saucepan or a heavy frying pan. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium heat. Now add the silverbeet ribs. Cook, stirring, for two or three minutes. Then add the leaves and stir. Cover the pan and leave to cook for 5 – 10 minutes or until the leaves have wilted down.
Stir in 1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard – or English mustard if that’s what you have. Add a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese if you have some. Grind over black pepper to taste.
Silverbeet with oyster sauce
As per the previous recipe, but leave out the mustard. Stir in one or two tablespoons of oyster sauce (from the Asian supplies section of the supermarket) instead.
Feta and silverbeet fritters
2 Tbsp flour
1 onion, grated
200g feta cheese, chopped
10-12 stalks silverbeet, cooked in a saucepan with a little water and chopped finely
Beat eggs in a bowl. Stir in flour, onion, then feta. Stir in silverbeet (make sure it is not still hot). Add a small grinding of fresh nutmeg and black pepper.
Fry in small patties in olive oil.