Steve Cumper takes a walk on the wild side as he goes for­ag­ing for spring greens to make a rus­tic pie.

THE GROUND THAWS, THE SHOOTS SPROUT, the shad­ows get shorter and the aro­mas of the in­dus­try of Mother Na­ture per­me­ate, herald­ing spring across our coun­try. Here in Tassie, we greet the ar­rival of spring as a bear would, emerg­ing from our hi­ber­na­tion, shak­ing offff sleep’s last em­brace, rav­en­ous for food and crav­ing sun­light. The sea­sons here are so pro­foundly difff­fer­ent that I re­ally look for­ward to the changes, but they oc­cur slightly later than on the main­land. In spring, the weather is highly change­able and, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of its ap­par­ent con­trari­ness, it’s com­mon prac­tice to put on sev­eral lay­ers of cloth­ing be­fore leav­ing the house in the morn­ing. Per­haps it’s the un­pre­dictable weather that has made Tas­ma­ni­ans the re­source­ful lot they’re known to be, es­pe­cially when it comes to the pro­cure­ment of food. The is­land state has a long tra­di­tion of ‘mak­ing do’ with food, so it should come as lit­tle sur­prise to read­ers that we were at the van­guard of the ‘for­ag­ing’ phe­nom­e­non, long be­fore the hip­ster chefs went bush. (On that note, have you ever won­dered why, with so much ‘for­aged’ and ‘gleaned’ food that has es­sen­tially been ob­tained for free on the menu, it is so ex­pen­sive to eat at their res­tau­rants?) At about the same time each year, we wit­ness a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple lib­er­at­ing stalks, leaves, buds and flflow­ers from grassy lay-bys, hedgerows and tracts of road­side bush. Ev­ery­one seems non­cha­lant about the haz­ards of pick­ing along roads where coun­cils, ever ea­ger to keep na­ture at bay, mer­ci­lessly spray any rogue veg­e­ta­tion. Chick­weed, wa­ter­cress, salt­bush, fen­nel, sam­phire, fat hen and kun­zea are all gath­ered here, and there’s even a ‘pro­ducer’ who col­lects and sells them at the lo­cal mar­ket. Gath­er­ing wild food was part of life for Aus­tralia’s fi­first peo­ple, but it’s a sub­ject we’re only just be­gin­ning to un­der­stand. Over the last three decades, ‘bush foods’ have found a wider au­di­ence, al­though only a few — such as pep­per­ber­ries, fifin­ger limes and per­haps wat­tle­seed — have made it into the main­stream. Like many new Aus­tralians, my knowl­edge of for­ag­ing was in­formed by the post­war im­mi­grants from Europe, who helped shape the food cul­ture we en­joy to­day. A Greek fam­ily I worked for in Ade­laide would spend their week­ends in the hills, col­lect­ing edi­ble weeds — known as horta — that were used to make a wild greens pie or a salad. They also sought out prickly wild ar­ti­chokes, which re­quired ar­du­ous clean­ing and left their hands bleed­ing. The sight of their lac­er­a­tions made me think about the lengths to which peo­ple would have gone to in the past, risk­ing in­jury to sur­vive and keep hunger at bay. Thank­fully, in this pros­per­ous coun­try, we’re lucky that food is at hand, bought or for­aged, and we’re able to en­joy a very sim­i­lar pie without risk­ing life and limb to pre­pare it. Take a mo­ment to pon­der this as you take your fi­first taste of my wild greens pie and rel­ish ev­ery mouth­ful as if it was your fi­first meal in an age. Steve Cumper is a chef and fun­ny­man who lives in Tas­ma­nia and dreams of one day own­ing a flfleet of hol­i­day vans called Wicked Cumpers. 1kg1 wild greens, such as fen­nel fronds, nas­tur­tium leaves, net­tles, chick­weed, fat hen, wood sor­rel (ox­alis), dan­de­lion* ⅓ cup olive oil 2 brown onions, peeled, diced 4 gar­lic cloves, peeled, crushed 4 eggs, lightly whisked 300g feta, crum­bled 1 cup fifinely grated parme­san 1 cup fresh bread­crumbs ½ tea­spoon ground cloves 2 lemons, rind fifinely grated, juiced 1 ta­ble­spoon dill seeds, toasted 10 sheets fi­filo pas­try olive oil cook­ing spray ex­tra fifinely grated parme­san and truss toma­toes, to serve Pre­heat oven to 180°C. Grease a 5cm-deep, 30cm-round pie dish. Cook greens in a saucepan of boil­ing wa­ter for 2 min­utes or un­til just wilted. Drain and re­fresh un­der cold wa­ter. Squeeze as much wa­ter as pos­si­ble from greens. Chop and place in a large bowl. Heat oil in a fry­ing pan over a medium heat. Cook onion and gar­lic for 8 min­utes or un­til soft. Trans­fer to bowl with greens. Add egg, feta, parme­san, bread­crumbs, cloves, lemon rind and juice, and half of dill seeds. Use your hands to mix un­til com­bined. Sea­son. Place 1 fi­filo sheet on a work sur­face with long side fac­ing you. Spray with oil. Place an­other fi­filo sheet cross­ways on top. Con­tinue lay­er­ing, with re­main­ing fi­filo and oil, over­lap­ping fi­filo sheets in a clock­wise di­rec­tion to cre­ate a disc. Line pie dish with fi­filo, al­low­ing it to over­hang. Spoon greens mix­ture into pas­try case. Fold ex­cess fi­filo over fi­fill­ing. Top with re­main­ing dill seeds. Bake for 35–40 min­utes or un­til set. Top with ex­tra parme­san. Serve with toma­toes. En­sure greens haven’t been sprayed. Sub­sti­tute silverbeet or English spinach.


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