Silver Beet In A Sesame Oil Dressing

When nothing else seems to work in my garden, silver beet grows and grows. Dunno why, or how. Its cousin, rhubarb, steadfastly refuses to do anything, and its other relative, beetroot, bolts to seed before the root is rooted.

Silver beet is commonly known as the spinach you grow when you can’t grow spinach. It’s unfair to this quite handsome stalked green vegetable to be diminished by sneering comparison. It has a tremendous personality of its own, and has that rare capacity to be superb as a salad, and brilliant when cooked until wilted. The white stalks, quite firm when raw, provide a wonderful chewiness and individual flavour when cooked quickly, usually in a wok, and usually with a deal of soy and garlic. Or try them covered with a white, cheesy sauce – a touch of the old-fashioned. Often the stalks are discarded because they don’t cook along at the same rate as the leaves or sit as easily in a salad. Don’t fall for that. Just start cooking the stalks a little before the green.

When cooked, silver beet often throws out what looks like a black juice. It’s not. It’s just the green juice escaping from the leaves. Keep it, and use it in whatever you decide to cook.

The combination of silver beet and sesame oil in this dish is a ripper.

½ cup sesame oil

1 chilli, chopped finely

1 clove garlic, chopped roughly

zest of 1 lime

1 bunch of silver beet, stems sliced away, and chopped roughly

¼ cup sesame seeds

1 firm tomato (or cherry tomatoes), skinned and chopped into tiny cubes – This is optional – it’s rather pointless to add tomatoes out of season.

small bunch of chives, chopped finely

juice of 1 lime


Heat the oil until just simmering, and then add the chilli, garlic and lime zest.


Add silver beet stems and stir-fry for a few minutes. When the stems are well softened, add the silver beet tops, sesame seeds and cubed tomato, and continue to stir for a minute or so, until the tops have wilted. Don’t be tempted to add any water: the silver beet will give away enough of its own. The tomato will be just heated through: the idea here is to provide a tiny touch of moisture and flavour in the midst of the chilli and slight bitterness of the silver beet.


When the silver beet is done, remove from the heat and toss the chives over the top. Serve sprinkled with the lime juice.

NOTE: This silver beet survives more than adequately on its own, straddling the plate. If you wish, chop it roughly after cooking and mix through boiled rice. Allowed to cool, it makes for a superb filling for a well-buttered sandwich, with a few slices of fresh tomato, avocado and cheese.

WINE: There’s something about the combination of an old Amontillado sherry and silver beet that I find attractive – or maybe it’s the thought of a glass as you chop away at the beets during the prep.