Did you ever win the lottery? No? Me neither! But I did receive an exciting phone call the other week telling me that my application to The Great Australian Bake-off had been successful, and would I bring in two of my favourite bakes to an audition next week? Would I what? Of course! What an honour and a privilege. I met so many lovely people also vying for a place on the show. All were amateur bakers, some more adventurous than others, but all eager to show off their skills and have a chance at fame.
Only four were selected to go on to the next stage, and I was not one of them. Although unsuccessful on that front, the whole experience has made me reflect on my habits as a baker. Am I content with easy dishes that provide no challenge, or am I prepared to go out on a limb and learn new skills that will take my baking to the next level? There were several bakers at the audition who had made their own pastry, and regardless of their skill level, impressed the judges with their can-do attitude.
After seeing what they had attempted, I was inspired to try my hand again at making pastry from scratch. I found this vegetarian tart recipe in a left-wing political mag while at a march protesting the government’s treatment of asylum seekers… but that’s another story. For now, this tart is everything; the buttery crust, the slightly bitter chard, the salty feta… For a relative newcomer, the pastry is fool-proof. Don’t miss your chance to win the lottery – make your own pastry! You won’t be sorry.
Swiss chard, feta cheese and egg pie
A soft, crumbly pastry that melts in your mouth, topped with wilted chard, salty feta and eggs.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, sliced
500g Swiss chard (silver beet), cut into 2-cm pieces
200g feta cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
150g unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons iced water
To make the pastry, place flour and butter in food processor bowl and put in freezer for 10 minutes. Pulse ingredients a few times until just combined. With the food processor still running, add egg yolks and just enough iced water so that the mixture is on the verge of coming together. Do not over beat, as this will make the pastry tough. Remove from bowl and use lightly floured hands to quickly form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan set over high heat, add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until soft and just flavours the oil. Add Swiss chard to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until it wilts and softens. Season well with salt and pepper, leave in the pan and set aside to cool. (I like to place it in a metal colander at this point, just to let the excess moisture drain away).
Preheat oven to 220degC/430degF/Gas 7. Line a rimmed pizza tray (diameter 30cm) with baking paper. Roll out pastry on a sheet of lightly floured baking paper to form a circle about 35 cm in diameter, trimming away any uneven bits. Transfer pastry circle to lined baking pizza tray. Roll the edge over to form a 1 cm border, then roll over again.
Spoon the Swiss chard mixture over the pastry. Crack eggs into a bowl and prick the yolks with a fork. Pour eggs over Swiss chard so that they are evenly distributed, then scatter feta over the top.
Drizzle remaining oil over pie and cook in oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the top of the pie is just starting to turn brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into slices to serve.
Recipe from the Green Pages, Lifestyle Winter 2009