Spinach: Eat your greens

Salmon & spinach filo layer bake

Salmon & spinach filo layer bake - Credit: Archant

If pressed, I would choose spinach as my favourite vegetable. It’s so versatile and good for you – it can’t be faulted or bettered.

Torn spinach in a salad with avocado, pine nuts and a delicious dressing is a perfect accompaniment to any main course. Wilted in an empty pan and lightly seasoned it is a delight, and a handful added to a risotto or pasta in the last few minutes of cooking can lift a dull dish to dizzy heights.

When living in London we used to go to a family-run Italian restaurant in Soho and I’d have Carbonara Con Spinachi with blue cheese and lots of fresh parmesan and black pepper... one of my favourite food memories.

Then there’s creamed spinach, an old-fashioned recipe which can be eaten with a thick slice of sourdough bread or as accompaniment to filet steak: wilted, drained spinach mixed with a little béchamel that has been spiked with musky nutmeg and tangy parmesan, topped with more parmesan and flashed under the grill.

Spinach must be really well washed. It will be totally spoilt if there is any grit or dirt on the leaves when cooked, and it can’t be hidden! Shake off all traces of water and place handfuls in a large, hot pan. Stir as the leaves wilt and the moisture evaporates. The cooked leaves should be softened and dry: do too much at one time and it will be wet and water-logged. You can squeeze spinach between two plates but, if it needs doing, I often do it by hand to be sure it is really dry.

You can use wilted, chopped spinach in soufflés, in gnocchi, as filling for ravioli, in filo, curries and tarts. Nothing is more classic than a little pile of buttery, glossy spinach under a poached egg with a perfectly-cooked piece of lightly-smoked fish and some tangy hollandaise.

Once wilted it can be frozen in small bags and popped in any recipe you like.

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Associated with children’s cartoon character Popeye and prized as a “super food”, it’s among the world’s healthiest vegetables for its vitamin and mineral content, as well as health-promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants.

So the next time you are asked to eat your greens, do it with gusto and let it be spinach!

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