Sending the Yak to the superdoopermarket/green grocers is a hit and miss thing. He is very good at buying utilitarian dried goods (think loo paper, environmentally friendly toilet cleaner in the shape of a duck or gluten free taco shells) but one has to be extremely specific when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
Point in case….I once asked for some green beans. He came back with eight, yes eight, (count them people) individual green beans. I could have created an art installation from them but finding a way to incorporate eight beans into a recipe was a tad beyond my imagination.
When pondering a vegetarian gluten free recipe as part of a shared Easter celebration, I lovingly reminisced upon the traditional spanokopita. That wonderful Greek pie consisting of silverbeet or spinach, ricotta, feta, herbs and flaky layers of pastry. Pastry that The Yak can no longer partake of. Thinking cap placed firmly atop of my noggin, I thunked. Perhaps a polenta crust atop a semi-traditional spinach pie would be quite the treat? (Or a total disaster.)
Curiosity led me to pondering the Greek connection between ground corn and food. Googlebumbling revealed that ground corn has indeed been used in Greek cooking in various ways for several hundred years. It possibly arrived in Greece, courtesy of the Turkish Ottoman Empire by way of Africa. Amongst other uses, it is sprinkled atop leafy green pies or placed underneath to soak up the juices. I have added the link to the very interesting article, after the photos in this post.
Once upon a time, I used to favour a spanokopita recipe by Matthew Evans (a former chef and food critic, now television host). It contained an abundance of herbs, leafy greens and cheese. Having lost this recipe, I now make it merely from memory. (Not the most reliable of sources.) Do not freak out at the amount of herbs in this recipe. It seems a lot but it works. Need it be said, The Yak did not do the shopping for this dish.
This pie is audaciously herbaceous. The salty hits of feta and kefalograviera (a salty Greek hard sheeps milk cheese), combined with the slightly sweet corn polenta, balance the meadowy punch in the face. But this is the kind of face punch that you happily go back for.
Sadly I missed out on the actual abundant Easter feast itself due to Kid 2 and a tummy bug. However, I did get to eat leftovers of this pie. I poured myself a glass of vino, tucked in and pretended I was on a Greek island somewhere. (In a place where stomach viruses did not exist.)
SILVERBEET, HERB AND POLENTA PIE
WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch spring onion, finely chopped
1 big bunch chopped silverbeet, trim the woody ends and use the leafy greens and some of the softer stem. (I had roughly 700g once trimmed of stalks.)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 Eggs, beaten
200g Feta, crumbled
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
Zest of one lemon and juice for the silverbeet
1 tsp Salt
1.5 cups instant polenta
5 cups water
1 1/2 tbl butter
120g kefalograviera cheese (Use 1/4 cup to add to the polenta and the rest to sprinkle on top of the pie.)
HOW YOU DO IT
In a large frypan, sauté the chopped onion for a few minutes until they start to become translucent, add the chopped spring onions, sauté for one minute.
Remove the mixture from the pan into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Re-heat the pan to a medium heat, add the chopped silverbeet along with a big squeeze of lemon and cook, stirring regularly until it has wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. When it has cooled, squeeze out any remaining liquid.
Into the large bowl containing the onion mixture, add the silverbeet, nutmeg, beaten eggs, ricotta, feta, chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and a few big grinds of black pepper, as much as you fancy. (I am not the pepper police!)
Mix well, taste and check for seasoning.
Smooth this mixture into a large oiled baking dish, I use a 3 litre rectangular Pyrex dish.
Preheat the oven to 180 C if you are cooking the dish immediately.
For the polenta. Heat the water in a medium saucepan until it just starts to boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the polenta, continuing to whisk. This is important as it avoids lumpy polenta.
Change to a wooden spoon, turn the heat to low and continue to cook the polenta, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes. Add the butter and 1/4 cup of the kefalograviera, it should be of a spreadable consistency.
Remove the polenta from the heat and immediately, spread it over the silverbeet, herb and egg mixture.
Let cool for ten minutes. Sprinkle the remaining kefalograviera cheese on top, and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown on top. (You can also place the pie in the fridge if you are cooking the next day.)
Let the pie rest for about 15-20 minutes until it has set a little bit.
Serve with a green salad, or roasted veggies.
Cooking Notes: silverbeet is also know as chard. If you cannot find Kefalograviera, use Pecorino, Parmesan or Gruyere.
A Cheergerm creation