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Weed pie

If ever there was a dish that epitomises siege food, it's weed pie. Versions of this dish are made in kitchens all over the world and come from times of war, famine and poverty. It's a recipe for using what's available and wasting nothing.

Raffaele and our friends from Italian and Greek heritage whose parents came here in the fifties and sixties tell a common story of their mothers stopping on the side of the road and picking "weeds". These were dandelions, nettles, wild artichokes and fennel and would be gathered and cooked with pasta and olive oil or made into a delicious pie.

Weed pie has developed from a dish of desperation to one that celebrates nature's abundance and creates nostalgia. The other thing is that wild greens and the vegetable tops we usually throw away are incredibly tasty!

This pie can be made with any green leafy plant (that isn't poisonous!) and the pie is best when there is a mixture of bitter and sweet leaves, aromatic herbs and leafy tops of vegetables. Some pies are made with egg and cheese and flavoured with garlic, and some just have the leaves cooked up, perhaps with some chilli.

They come in all shapes and sizes. In the south of Italy they are usually are made with yeast dough. In Calabria, it's more like bread stuffed with greens and chilli, in the Salento in the south of Puglia it is a flat thin pie. In both places it's called Pitta, presumably from the influence of the Greeks.


Weed Pie

Raffaele made a weed pie this time from the leaves from the kohlrabi, the tops of fennel bulbs and some curly kale but a mix of any available leaves will work well.

For the dough

One and a half cups of flour

1 teaspoon of dried yeast

pinch of salt

I teaspoon of honey

Warm water

Dissolve the yeast and honey in the water then let it sit for about an hour until the yeast activates and grows. Add it to the flour, mix and adjust the water to create the consistency of bread dough. Knead well and then leave in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size.


For the filling

Mixed greens - chopped up quite small

olive oil

garlic

1 chilli

salt and pepper

1 egg beaten

grated Parmesan cheese


In a large fry-pan, heat the olive oil and garlic, add the greens and salt and pepper and cook until the greens wilt. Take off the heat and remove any excess liquid.

In a bowl put the egg, chilli and the cheese. Add the wilted greens and mix to coat with the egg mixture.

Roll the dough out thinly. Put the greens on one side of the dough and fold the rest over and seal the edges. Brush the top with an egg wash and bake in a moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden.









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