Horta, as you know, is something that is a firm staple on the table at 'Casa Mulberry'. It is also something that my mother in law always has on the menu. Tsigariasta (Τσιγαριστα) means to braise or sautee a selection of wild greens in good Greek olive oil.
The selection of greens usually depends on what is around - now that it is summer in Sydney, that means plenty of purslane (andrakla/ glystrida αντράκλα or γλυστρίδα) and amaranth (Vlita βλήτα). Given the abundance of juicy late summer tomatoes, these are also added to the dish. Ma's twist to the classic tsigariasta is to add some small clams or pippies, which makes for a rich dish with a good hint of vegetal bitterness from the greens.
I remember the first time Ma made this dish for me. I had called in for an afternoon visit and my niece and nephew were also spending some time with their Yiayia. Ma served the four of us pipping hot bowls of this dish, with home cured olives, feta and delicious wholemeal, home style bread on the side. It was such a joy to see two little ones happily wolfing down this nutrient packed dish, with their sophisticated pallets at such a relatively young age - my nephew happily asking if there were seconds on offer.
Horta Tsigariasta with clams (Χόρτα Τσιγαριστά με αχιβάδες)
2-3 onions, chopped (at least one red and one brown)
2-3 leeks, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of dried chilli pepper flakes, to taste
About 1 kilo of greens - 1 bunch of green amaranth, 1 bunch of red amaranth, 1 bunch of purslane
1 glass of freshly grated tomatoes
1 glass of water
1/2 kg of small vongole clams or pippies
Salt and pepper, to taste
Here’s how Ma makes her Tsigariasta.
1. First, you must start by scrupulously washing your clams and wild greens, using only the tender leaves and stems of the amaranth. Discard any woody or tough stems, or any yellowing leaves.
2. Boil a very large pan of unsalted water and tip the greens into it for five minutes. Meanwhile, chop the leeks, onions and garlic finely. In a separate pan, begin by sauteing the onion and leek in a lot of olive oil. When it’s golden, add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant.
3. Next add the tomato, stirred well and then add the well drained greens, together with the chilli to taste. You may want to add just a touch of water, so that the greens don't stick to the pan. Cover the pot and let it all simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes. Then, add the well cleaned clams and cover the pot again, simmer for a further 10 minutes until the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick, olive oil rich sauce.