If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will be familiar with the Kitchen Basics series. Kitchen Basics are the building blocks of my cooking repertoire. They are the recipes I use regularly, in different ways, to quickly pull a meal together. It occurred to me, though, that whilst I try to provide ideas in each post as to how these basics might be used, it may be more helpful to actually provide specific recipes (creamy mushroom & ham pies and dukkah-spiced lamb koftas aside). Let’s start then with this Creamy Silverbeet Gratin.
The first time I made this, we had our teenage nephew staying with us. He peered into the fry pan, turned to me with a big grin on his face, and said, “You know what would make that better …. no green stuff!” Imagine my surprise when he not only finished his dinner, but went back to scrape out the fry pan.
There are a couple of ways to serve this dish. The quickest is to stir the bechamel into the softened vegetables, and serve it straight from the fry pan. However if I have a little more time, I like to pile the creamy vegetables into a gratin dish, scatter over some breadcrumbs, and finish it off in the oven. The breadcrumbs crisp up in the heat of the oven, and provide a nice contrast to the creamy vegetables. Both versions are very tasty, so use the one you have time for.
This gratin uses both the silverbeet stem and leaves. For the longest time I would throw out the silverbeet stem, never really considering them edible. I couldn’t even get the chickens to eat them. I have since learnt that the stem can be a useful part of the vegetable if finely sliced or chopped, and now add them to almost every dish in which I use the silverbeet leaves.
If you are after an even quicker silverbeet accompaniment than this gratin, finely slice the silverbeet stem, saute it with garlic until soft, then stir in the chopped greens to allow them to wilt. These simple greens make a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken or pan-fried fish.
Whilst I primarily use this gratin as a side dish, it would also make an easy vegetarian meal. Paired with brown rice or another wholegrain, this would be the perfect comfort meal at the end of a cold day. So stock up the freezer with my Simple Bechamel Sauce, and dinner will be at your fingertips. I promise even the teenagers will love it.
Creamy Silverbeet Gratin
This dish can serve as both an accompaniment or as a vegetarian main. Add brown rice or other grains for a substantial meal.
- 2 Tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- leaves A large bunch of silverbeet and stems, washed., approximately 800g
- 1/2 batch Simple Bechamel Sauce defrosted if frozen
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- Olive oil extra
- Salt & Pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C
- Cut the stems from the silverbeet leaves. I do this by folding the leaf in half, and running my knife along the edge of the stem.
- Finely slice the silverbeet stems, and set aside.
- Roughly slice, then chop, the silverbeet leaves. You are aiming for pieces the size of a postage stamp rather than long strings of leaves.
- Heat the ghee or oil in a large fry pan over a medium heat.
- Add the onion to the pan, and fry for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to brown.
- Add the finely sliced silverbeet stems to the fry pan, and cook for a further 3 minutes, or until the stems have softened.
- Place the chopped silverbeet leaves into the fry pan, and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the leaves wilt.
- Add the bechamel sauce, and mix gently but thoroughly until all the vegetables are coated in sauce.
- Season with salt & pepper.
- You can serve the silverbeet at this stage. If you wish to make the gratin, pour the creamy vegetables into a large gratin dish, and set aside.
- Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and toss until the breadcrumbs are coated in oil.
- Scatter the seasoned breadcrumbs over the top of the creamy vegetables.
- Place the gratin dish in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are bubbling the breadcrumbs are browned.
- Serve immediately.
If you are using frozen bechamel, it will be grainy and appear to have separated once defrosted. Add the bechamel to the warm fry pan, and the heat will soon turn it back into a smooth sauce. Trust me.