Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Silverbeet Lasagne

It's one of those weekends where you haven't quite run down the fridge enough to justify buying a whole shop of new food, but at the same time you're a bit worried you might run out of food midway through the week. Planning to the rescue! One of our purchases last week was a huge bunch of silverbeet, and a fairly large bunch of beetroot. While we'd eaten the roots of the latter, the leaves and stalks were still hanging around, and we hadn't even made a dent in the silverbeet. So I googled around, and found this recipe, added the beetroot stalks, and it worked out remarkably well. In fact the beetroot stalks added a really nice purple colour. For perhaps the first time ever, I managed not to burn the top of the lasagne, by covering it in foil. Genius (/facepalm).


  • 2kg of silverbeet and/or beetroot stalks & leaves
  • 1 large white or red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 50g tin of tomato puree or paste
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 6 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a few handfuls of fresh
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper
  • 120g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 litre of milk
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese

Finely chop the onion and fry gently in olive oil until translucent and starting to colour. Crush in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the tins of tomatoes and puree, rinsing them out with some red wine and a little water. Add the herbs, bay leaves and sugar; stir, cover and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally, until thickened. If it stays too runny, remove the lid to reduce the water content. Taste and season.

While the sauce is cooking, melt the butter in the microwave and add the plain flour, then gently stir in the milk a little at a time. Microwave for a minute or two, stirring every thirty seconds, until it begins to thicken. Add the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg, then again season to taste.

Wash the beet plants thoroughly, then separate the stalks and leaves (you don't have to be exact). Finely chop the stalks and fry in a little olive oil, then cover and steam for a minute or two in their own juices. Meanwhile, roughly chop the leaves, then add to the stalks, cover and steam for a further minute or two until wilted. Drain the cooked beet plants into a colander and squeeze out the liquid with a spatula, or, after it cools, with your hands. The volume will reduce by about half to two-thirds! Squeeze over a little lemon and season well.

When the tomato, cheese and silverbeet are done, begin the lasagne assembly; I prefer the order: tomato, lasagne, tomato, silverbeet, lasagne, cheese, lasagne, tomato, silverbeet, lasagne, cheese; then top with cheddar and cover with foil. Bake at 175 C for an hour, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to allow the cheese to turn golden. Rest of 10 minutes before slicing.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Palak Raita (Spinach with Yoghurt and Spices)

I'm going through a big spinach phase at the moment. There's no better way to prepare it than to wash it thoroughly (grit is HORRIBLE!) pile it into a big saucepan and cook it in the rinsing water for a few minutes, then squeeze it out completely and use or serve as soon as you can. I like it very simply dressed with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a generous dusting of salt.

Tonight's curry calls for a more robust treatment, and fortunately my Giant Asian Cookbook is ready to provide. They start by cooking the spinach in exactly the same way I do - so really it's just the dressing that changes.


  • a big bunch of spinach, cooked as described above
  • 1 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds or ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 250g plain yoghurt

Fry the mustard seeds in the ghee or butter at a low heat  until they start to pop, Add the cumin seeds, ground cumin and fenugreek, and stir fry with a wooden spoon until the spices colour - but be careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat, and add the salt and cayenne, if using, then allow to cool. Swirl the spinach, yoghurt and spice mixture together in a bowl; serve cold or at room temperature (more fragrant).

Alu Gobi Bhaji (Spicy Fried Potato and Cauliflower)

Another one adapted from my Giant Asian Cookbook: a quick and simple curry that we served with delicious spinach and yoghurt.


  • 2 tbsp of ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp asfoetida
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • a thumb of fresh ginger, finely grated or chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 small head cauliflower
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • fresh coriander, to garnish

Fry the mustard seeds in the oil over a low heat until they start to pop. Add the asfoetida, chilli (if using), garlic and ginger and stir-fry until golden. Break the cauliflower into florets and dice the potato - it can help to leave the cauliflower a bit large and make the potato quite small, to even out the cooking time. Add the turmeric, salt, cauliflower, potato and 60ml of water and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potato and cauliflower are tender. Sprinkle with garam masala, top with coriander leaves and serve.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Potato and Cheese Polpettes

Here's an alternative vegetarian barbeque burger to the ubiquitous bean burgers. Not sure I'd want to serve them in a bun: better with a sweet and spicy chutney, some gorgeous steaky portabellas and plenty of black pepper.

5-6 medium mashing potatoes
250g feta cheese
4 spring onions
4 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or mint, if you prefer)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp lemon juice

(Peel the potatoes if you like - I don't.) Wash, cube and simmer them until soft, then mash, allowing plenty of steam to escape - for once you want this to be a kind of dry mash. While it cools a little, finely chop the spring onions and herbs, then add them to the potato, season with plenty of black pepper and stir well. Stir in the egg and lemon juice. Finally, crumble in the feta and fold gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for an hour or so. Then divide into little balls and flatten them slightly. Brush with olive oil, then barbeque on the grill or hotplate for a few minutes each side, until golden brown and hot through. (We might use a lower heat and more oil next time!)