Silverbeet isn’t classy. It is often held in low esteem, is considered a boring vegetable and to top it all of is mildly toxic. So why eat it? Well when small silverbeet trees started appearing in the fruit shop a few weeks ago for a pittance, I thought ‘hang the poison, I gotta get me some of that, and find out what all the fuss is about’. And thus replaced half the groceries I bought that day with a hulking heap of silverbeet because, you know, I can only carry so much home.
To cut a long story short, I never found out what all the fuss was about for silverbeet as a vegetable in general, because I managed to turn that mountain of chard, and the next one too, into this crazy simple silverbeet gratin. I added gruyere one time, unnecessarily, as sufficient richness added by the milk. Smooth, tender and creamy topped with a breadcrumb crunch, this earthy side dish is the reason to eat silverbeet.
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2t plain flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs
Wash leaves thoroughly. Cut leaves from stalks. Slice the stalks into 1 cm pieces and reserve. Cut leaves into strips. Heat a large pan of water and salt lightly. When boiled, add the stalks and cook for about 10 mins, then add the leaves, stir, return to the boil and then drain. Refresh silverbeet in cold water, and drain again. Squeeze all liquid out of the vegetable and place in a tea towel lined bowl. Wrap silverbeet in the towel and squeeze again, discarding liquid. Being careful to remove all the liquid at this stage ensures that you get rid of the oxalic acid, that pesky toxin, and makes it difficult to overcook the silverbeet.
Heat butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a wide frying pan over medium eat and add garlic, cook until fragrant, then add the silverbeet and stir. Season with salt and pepper and cook until quite dry. Sprinkle with flour, stir, and cook for a few minutes to lightly cook the flour. Add the milk in 3 batches, stirring well between each addition until milk has been absorbed. Spoon into a greased baking dish, or 4 individual ones, cover with breadcrumbs and sprinkle over a few drops of olive oil. Place in a preheated 180C oven and bake for about 15 mins or until golden and bubbly. Serve warm with a roast.