The sight of glossy, dark-green, leafy silver beet in the garden always reminds me of that old war-time slogan: Dig for Victory! Is it the defiant uprightness of the leaves, or the sneaking suspicion that Nanny would say, “Eat up, it’s good for you”? With the unspoken “even if you don’t like it” hanging in the air. I’m afraid, however, that my silver beet wouldn’t do much for victory this year … it hasn’t thrived as it normally does … but with a large, healthy bunch from the market, and some leaves from the garden thrown in, time for another quick favourite, my version slightly adapted from the recipe in Annabel Langbein’s Smart food for busy people which, as I’ve said before, has to be one of the best cookbooks ever. The most obvious change is that I use silver beet instead of spinach.
400 gms dry pasta (shells are my favourite for this)
2 tbspn olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 tspn crushed garlic
1 large bunch silver beet
200 gms feta, crumbled (or roughly chopped … less messy than crumbling the cheese with your fingers)
freshly ground black pepper
toasted pine nuts
So, while the pasta’s cooking, heat oil and cook onion till soft. Add garlic & sizzle briefly. Add silver beet and cook, a minute or two. Remove from heat, add feta, season with pepper to taste & a decent pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat briefly … not to melt the cheese. By this time the pasta should be cooked & drained … mix sauce through pasta, making sure the silver beet doesn’t clump together, & sprinkle with pine nuts. Or toasted pumpkin seeds; they work too.
And I must say, to finish, one of the things I like about this dish, quite apart from its taste & ease of making, is that it serves just as well for a quick & unadorned mid-week dinner as for something a bit smarter … quite a few friends, I’m not ashamed to say, have had it tarted up with a decent salad and some crusty bread.