August 31st, 2023
I think of seasonal cooking and eating as more than simply the produce we eat. It also encompasses the way we prepare our food at different times of year. In the warmer months of summer, cooling salads and quick-cooked barbecue food are what we lean towards during this faster-paced season.
In wintertime when we naturally spend more time indoors, cooking methods often involve more heat and longer cooking times. Including soups, braises, stews and pies, combined with produce that is filling such as potatoes and other root vegetables. Right now we are sitting at the crossover from winter into spring with warmer days and cool nights. I find my cooking is a combination of warming and comforting while embracing the freshness of spring greens and herbs.
As I wander the garden at this time of year I notice an awakening from the winter slumber. Leafy greens, which were small and huddled from the cold a few weeks ago, are beginning to grow with a little more gusto. My harvest basket fills up quickly with silverbeet, kale, sprouting broccoli, fennel, parsley, and a pop of colour from the first watermelon radish.
You will notice the use of dried dill in the recipe below. It is a herb I adore but find it difficult to grow a good enough supply for how much I like to use it. Self-seeded feathery shoots are beginning to emerge with the warmer weather, but not enough for a handful. So, instead, I rely on its dried counterpart readily available at supermarkets. It is, in fact, one of two dried herbs I use regularly in my kitchen – oregano being the other.
Like oregano, I find dried dill holds its flavour well so it is handy to have on hand when fresh is unavailable. Unlike some dried herbs where I would use a smaller quantity compared to fresh, in the case of dill I use the same quantity as I would fresh to get the full flavour. It has a glorious unique herbaceous flavour that can be used in cooking year-round. I often feel like I am being transported to another time, or continent when I eat it.
Potato, Silverbeet & Halloumi Spiral Pies
- 4-5 medium agria potatoes (about 600g), peeled
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek or onion, sliced
- 4-5 large leaves silverbeet or kale (about 300g), stalks removed and chopped
- 1 tbsp dried or fresh dill, chopped (can also use fresh parsley)
- about 120g halloumi, grated (or crumbled feta)
- cracked pepper
- 40 g butter
- 12 sheets filo pastry
- sesame seeds for sprinkling (I used black sesame seeds)
- Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C).
- Chop the potatoes into 3-4 cm chunks and place into a saucepan with a big pinch of salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil (tip: use cold water for old potatoes and boiling water for new potatoes). Simmer for about 15 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain well in a colander.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the leek or onion with a pinch of salt and sauté until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the greens along with 1 tablespoon of water, cover with a lid and steam for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and sauté until excess moisture has evaporated - turn up the heat if needed. Remove from the heat.
- Tip drained potatoes into a large bowl and use a fork to roughly mash. Add the dill and cheese, and season well with cracked pepper. Tip in the greens mixture and combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Use this to grease a 25cm round baking dish (or similar).
- Unroll the filo and lay two sheets stacked together on the bench with the longest side closest to you. Use a pastry brush to generously brush with the melted butter. Spread about 3 heaped tablespoons of the potato mixture along the long edge of the filo. Roll up the pastry into a log, brushing along the length of the exposed pastry as you go. Coil into a spiral (not too tight) and place into the prepared dish. Repeat with the remaining filling mixture and filo sheets.
- Scatter with sesame seeds and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
- Serve with a spring salad, and chutney or seasoned yoghurt on the side.