All this summer rain has done wonders for the wild greens. I was at a friend’s house the other day, they’re building from scratch, and the weeds in the garden were looking delicious! They had loads of wonderful looking fat hen. I salvaged loads of dandelion from the weeds pulled at the Lyneham Commons working bee on the weekend, picked the leaves and saved the fat roots. Wandering up at O’Conner Ridge I came across a field of wild brassica and knew it would be the third weed for my pie. The combination of these three weeds made an excellent, flavourful, complex and nutritious green filling for my pie. Some slow cooked onion adds sweetness, fresh goat cheese adds a nice tang, ricotta a mild creaminess, an egg or two binds it together and adds a little richness.
Wild brassica is the ancestor of all our common cultivated modern brassicas including broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussel sprouts. Wild brassica can be assumed to have similar nutritional profile to kale, high in folic acid, carotenoids and vitamin C. Dandelion is the most nutritious vegetable ever tested by the US Department of Agriculture. It is high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, B6 and K and a whole host of other goodies. Fat hen is very high in protein, vitamin C and calcium and is widely grown in Northern India. If you’d like to know more about how to identify and use fat hen, check out this video by Green Deane from Eat the Weeds.
While we often prefer minimally cooked vegetables these days, there are three reasons for blanching the wild greens before making the pie filling. Firstly, to remove some of the liquid so they compressed well and did not make for a watery pie filling. Secondly, blanching leaches out the oxalic acid which is common in wild greens. Lastly, boiling often reduces bitterness of wild greens. These reasons apply differently to each of the weeds used here. I find dandelion greens to be very bitter. Although young and fast growing leaves, like those picked after a lot of summer rain, will be less bitter than older, slow growing leaves, I still wanted to reduce the bitterness of this nutritious green. Fat hen is a very popular wild green, it is truly delicious with a very inoffensive flavour even raw. But because it is relatively high in oxalic acid, I blanch to reduce the presence of this compound. Oxalic acid is found in all sorts of foods from almonds to tea, but it can inhibit the absorption of calcium. Larger wild brassica leaves should be blanched for them to reach a desirable texture, and soften them for mixing into the pie filling.
Makes one 25 cm pie
|200||grams||Fat hen leaves|
|200||grams||Wild brassica leaves and flowers|
|Dandelion roots (optional)|
|1||free range egg|
|250||grams||fresh goat cheese|
|1||teaspoon||freshly ground black pepper|
|175||grams||butter, at room temperature, but not soft|
To make the filling, put the onions on to cook slowly while you prepare the greens. Dice the onion and place in a small saucepan with the butter, on a low heat. Cover and stir occasionally. You want them to cook slowly, so they become very tender and sweet, with very little colour. It would be good if you could let them go for 30 minutes or so. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for another five minutes.
Prepare each of the greens separately. Wash the leaves thoroughly, remove any stalks and discard discoloured leaves.
Finely chop the wild brassica leaves. Drop them in rapidly boiling water and cook in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Drain the greens in a sieve. Press down on the greens to remove all liquid. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, breaking them up to cool.
Roughly chop the dandelion greens. Drop them into a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil for 10-15 minutes before tasting them for bitterness. If they are still too bitter for your taste, drain them. Refill the pot with boiling water and boil the greens for another 5-10 minutes before tasting again. You can continue cooking them to reduce the bitterness, but they will begin to take on a flaccid slippery texture. Drain the greens and press down on them to remove all liquid. Transfer them to the mixing bowl, breaking them up to cool.
Drop the fat hen leaves into a pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil for 3-5 minutes, or till they have just wilted. Drain the greens in a sieve. Press down to remove all liquid. Add the drained leaves to the mixing bowl.
If you are using dandelion roots, scrub them clean and remove any trace of the green tops. Place the roots in a pot of water and bring to the boil, cooking till tender. Remove from the water and allow them to cool enough to handle. Peel the skin off the roots then pull the cooked flesh away from the tough inner root. Finely chop the cooked flesh and add it to the mixing bowl. Discard the inner root and skin.
Mix the weeds well, being sure to break up all the clumps of greens. And leave them to cool completely. You can refrigerate the mix at this stage, preparing the rest of the filling up to a day later.
Combine the cheeses, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small mixing bowl. Add to the weeds and mix well, returning to the fridge to chill.
To make the pastry, place the flour in a mixing bowl. Chop the butter into cubes and add to the flour. Flatten the butter into the flour with your hands. But you still want it to be in big pieces. Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes to rest.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead gently and form into rectangle. Don’t overwork the butter streaks; you should have a bit of a marbled effect. Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that and roll again. Repeat this process once or twice more then return it to the fridge to rest for another 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200oC.
To assemble the pie, remove the pastry from the fridge. Cut away one third of the pastry and return it to the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rest of the pastry to line the bottom of your pie dish. You want to allow a reasonable amount of overhang, and you don’t want the pastry to be too thick. Mine was 4-5 millimetres thick. Scoop the filling into the pastry bottom, packing it down firmly so you haven’t any air pockets.
Roll out the reserved third of the pastry for the pie lid. Lay it atop the filling, and press down so it fits snuggly. Cut the lid so it’s the perfect size of the pie, then brush the lid and inside of the sides with egg wash. Now trim the pastry base leaving a good centimetre above the lid. Push the excess down onto the lid, pinching it to seal.
You can use excess pastry to decorate the top of the pie. I used little heart and triangle shaped cookie cutters to make leaf shapes and steam holes in the top of the lid. Brush the decorations with more of the egg wash.
Make sure you have steam holes in the lid of your pie and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden all over.
Remove the pie from the oven and leave it to rest for 10 minutes before removing it from the tray. Transfer it to a wire rack to keep the pastry fresh.
Serve warm or at room temperature.