There’s spinach, and then there’s silverbeet, which is also called chard. Too many names for what is really just a strong tasting leafy green. It was served, boiled or steamed, as a green vegetable as part of the ubiquitous meat and three veg we all grew up on here. Nothing mitigated that strong, bitter flavour that only a child could learn to hate with such a passion.
And yes, I know that spinach and silverbeet aren’t the same thing, but I grew up thinking they were. We had the word spinach. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I discovered the word silverbeet, and chard came only with American cookbooks after that. There was also something called English spinach, but it looked like spinach to me.
Was it an Australian country town thing, or something particular to my family of multi-generation Australians mixed with more recent English and Scottish migrants?
Move on a few decades and a much more interesting mix of food cultures, and we have an Indian cookbook with the delightfully named dish called saag (spinach) bhaji. In keeping with my upbringing, we use silverbeet. It’s milder, and it grows like a rocket in our garden.
Spinach (silverbeet) curry
- coconut oil or olive oil for cooking (or ghee)
- 1 large onion
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 8-10 fenugreek leaves
- ½ teaspoon of tumeric
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder
- 1 tablespooon of curry leaves
- 2–3 cloves of garlic
- a bunch of silverbeet
- 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes
- pinch of salt
- Heat the oil and fry the spices until the seeds pop. Dice the onion, garlic and chilli, then add them to the pan and saute them. Add the salt.
- Coarsely chop the silverbeet, add it to the pan and mix it with the spices and onion mix.
- Cover it and cook on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add a little water if you notice the pan running out of liquid (unlikely, but possible if you have the heat a little high).
- Dice the potatoes and add to the mix. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Serve. A dollop of yoghurt can be good if you find you were a bit heavy handed with the chilli.
Source: Adapted from Classic Indian Cuisine (1995). Edited by Rosemary Moon. Tiger Books: Twickenham.