Silverbeet and pumpkin free-form tart.

Silverbeet and pumpkin free-form tart. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The recipe today is for a rustic tart that is baked free-form, without a tin. It has a simple olive oil crust and a filling of silverbeet, red onions, roasted pumpkin and cheese. In Italy it would be called a crostata. It is as easy as pie to make and you will love it.

This style of tart lends itself to many variations with different vegetables and cheeses. Vegetables you may like to try are leeks, zucchini, broccoli, spinach or kale, fennel, eggplant or mushrooms. They do need to be cooked first. Other cheeses to use are Swiss-style cheeses or any tasty cheese really. The recipe can easily be adapted to be vegan, just leave out the eggs and cheese and use some chickpeas, cannellini beans or nuts instead.

The recipe is for quite a large tart; so if you want to make a smaller one, use less pastry and less silverbeet. You can be as relaxed about making it as the finished tart looks.

For alternative fillings, use a cup of ricotta and half a cup of pecorino or parmesan cheese. Try leeks instead of red onion, and zucchini instead of pumpkin.

Include spinach or kale as a substitute for some of the silverbeet. It is a good trick to add a quarter of a cup of arborio rice to the greens filling to absorb the moisture as it cooks.

SILVERBEET, RED ONION AND PUMPKIN TART

Serves 6-8

Olive oil pastry

300g plain flour

60ml olive oil

1 generous pinch of sea salt

175ml warm water

Filling

1 bunch silverbeet

500g pumpkin

2 red onions, sliced

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram or 2 tsp fresh thyme

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g grated firm mozzarella cheese

100g crumbled feta cheese

For the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a pile on the bench. Make a well in the centre and tip in the olive oil and most of the water. Gradually mix the flour into the oil and water. You may need to add a little more water or flour. Alternatively, the dough can be made in a food processor. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead for four or five minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and leave on the bench for 30 minutes. If using much later, keep in the fridge.

For the filling, wash the silverbeet thoroughly. Cut the leaves away from the stalks. I set aside the coarser stalks for another dish. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add salt and throw in the stalks first to cook for three or four minutes. Add the leaves (in two batches) and cook for a minute or two. Lay the leaves and stalks on a tea towel. When cool, squeeze out excess moisture. Cut the stalks into short lengths and roughly shred the leaves.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel and cut the pumpkin into slices about a centimetre thick. Brush with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes until tender and starting to brown, turning halfway.

Heat half the olive oil in a frypan with the onions and fry until nicely golden, stirring occasionally. Mix the two cheeses together and set aside half a cup. Keep a little of the beaten egg aside as well for an egg-wash. Combine the silverbeet in a bowl with the remaining egg, cheese and olive oil, the marjoram or thyme, a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan, or 200C conventional. Sprinkle the bench and rolling pin with flour. Roll the pastry out into a large circle about three millimetres thick. Fold into quarters and lift on to a pizza tray or oven tray lined with baking paper, and carefully unfold; it will overlap the sides. Sprinkle half the reserved cheese in a circle, leaving a border of close to 10 centimetres around the edge.

Scatter the red onions over the cheese and spoon the silverbeet mixture evenly over. Arrange the pumpkin on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Trim away any misshapen bits of pastry on the edge, but no need to fuss. Fold the edges in over the filling making a pleat with each fold. The middle will be open. Brush the pastry with egg wash. Bake the tart in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes until golden brown. Cover the middle with a little foil if it's becoming too brown. Let the pie rest for a few minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au.