29 October 2012

Silverbeet: Baked eggs with Silverbeet pesto

This week is all about silverbeet (Swiss chard for those of you in the UK)- for breakfast, lunch and dinner...
We spent last weekend at a friend's house in  St Andrews, a 45 minute drive from Melbourne and one of our favourite places to get out of the city and relax. St Andrews has a fantastic community market every Saturday come rain, hail or shine, and let's face it, you may get all of those in one day, set amongst the eucalypts with stalls selling seasonal organic produce, home made jams and cakes, as well as anything from old farm tools to massages, what more could I possibly want?  

After scouring the markets and buying farm fresh eggs, a bunch of flowers from the protea, waratah & banksia stand, and a depression era green glass milk jug, (or some such "kitchenalia" I am a sucker for); we head over to A Boy Named Sue to relax, have a bite to eat and people watch. Perched on the hill across from the market in a mud brick building, A Boy Named Sue has truly mouth watering pizza (pork belly, bacon and eggs anyone???), and delicious light snacks with well thought out, paired ingredients (I had the boccerones, white anchovies and shaved fennel on crostini - heaven!). They are also open for breakfast on the weekends so Sunday morning on the way back to Melbourne we stopped off for some baked eggs with fluffy ricotta.
I have digressed from the silverbeet... our friends have an extensive vegetable garden with astounding quantities of fresh, organic produce and at the moment the silverbeet just keeps going and going. We left laden down with a bounty of green - silverbeet, peas (still  crunchy and sweet in their pods) and beautiful herbs.
I often keep cut silverbeet in a vase in our kitchen until I get around to using it but if it starts to wilt I cut the green away from the white stalks and blanch it for a minute then drain and freeze in snaplock bags (the white stalk is great chopped in soup, casseroles or stir-fries). 
Silverbeet has a strong flavour which needs to be matched with equally robust flavours for balance - I am using walnuts, lemon zest and pecorino, along with virgin olive oil. This is versatile pesto that can be used with eggs, on pasta or warmed as a dip. It will last in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Ingredients (for pesto):
makes enough pesto for 4 servings of baked eggs, or 2 servings with pasta
  • 80 grams (blanched) silverbeet
  • 30 grams pecorino, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaked salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • 40 grams walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  1. remove the white stalks of the silverbeet and blanch the green leaves in boiling water until just softened, approximately 30 seconds, then drain well
  2. place all dry ingredients, garlic and the silverbeet in a food processor and pulse until combined
  3. with the food processor running add lemon juice and then slowly pour in olive oil (you may only need 2 tablespoons) until well combined - the resulting pesto should be thick and glossy but still have nice texture (you may need to scrape the sides of the food processor as you go)

Ingredients for the baked eggs (for 2 people): 
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • chopped blanched silverbeet, or chopped fresh spinach
  • salt and pepper
  1. preheat oven to 180˚C and using butter or oil, grease ramekins or oven proof dish (tea cups can look very cute)**  
  2. place 1 tablespoon of cream in bottom of each prepared ramekin/ dish
  3. on one side of dish pile up blanched silverbeet and season with salt and pepper
  4. add two blobs of pesto to opposite sides of the dish (approximately 1 tablespoon each blob)
  5. carefully crack 2 eggs into each dish, trying not to break the yolks
  6. drizzle with more cream, then season liberally with cracked pepper
  7. sit ramikins in a metal baking tray which is at least 5 cm high, fill the metal tray with boiling water which reaches half way up the sides of your baking dishes to make a water bath for the eggs to cook in
  8. cook for 17 - 25 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. If you want the whites cooked, with the yolks just set, then start checking at 15 minutes (the water bath makes for super silky eggs but does take a little while to cook), when they are cooked to your perfection - eat with toast soldiers and enjoy!!!
  9. if you are like me and do not want a hint of runny yolk then pop them in the oven, have a shower, make a cup of tea, then remember you have something in the oven about half an hour later when the house starts to smell amazing, poke them with a fork, leave them for five minutes more then eat!
** the teracotta dishes I used looked great but are a little porous so not really recommended for anything which cooks in a water bath as it will absorb some of the water... as I found out making these.

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