No matter how you serve it, spinach is packed with nutrition as well as taste. The benefits to adding this vegetable to your diet are numerous and regular consumption of this food will certainly contribute to a healthy life style.
Firstly, it is low in cholesterol and saturated fat and contains B6, which is said to help lower the risk of heart disease. It is also known for its rich content of iron; iron is essential to help oxygenate our red blood cells, which then carry the oxygen rich blood throughout our bodies. Spinach is also high in Vitamin C, which is a vital part of our diet to help boost the immune system and fight off cancer causing agents and, to top it all off, it is also an excellent source of dietary fiber to help keep our digestive systems regular and functioning properly.
Spinach is a native plant of Asia and grows to be approximately 12 inches tall. It is most commonly an annual, which means it must be replanted each year, however in a climate that doesn’t get prolonged cold winters, spinach can grow year around. It was first domesticated in Nepal and should be grown in light fertile soil that easily retains moisture. It should be planted where it will get a great deal of sun when the weather is cool but gets some shade when the temperatures get warmer.
I love to eat Spinach raw and baby spinach is a great nutrient-packed substitute for lettuce in a salad and perfect topped with goats cheese, fresh fruit and a drizzle of vinaigrette. When cooking, you need to be most aware that spinach contains a great deal of water, so what looks like a huge amount won’t be when it’s cooked. The simplest way to prepare spinach is to pick out and discard any damaged or brown leaves and remove any tough stalks, fill the sink with cold water, then plunge the spinach in the water and swirl the leaves around.
Do this in two or three changes of water, then let it all drain in a colander, shaking it well over the sink. To cook the spinach, I would recommend that you absolutely avoid water. For 500g of spinach leaves, melt 10 g of butter or 2 tablespoons of good olive oil in a large, thick-based saucepan, then keeping the heat at medium, pack the spinach leaves in. Add some salt, put on a tight-fitting lid and let it cook for about 30 seconds, then take the lid off and you’ll find the spinach has collapsed down into the butter or oil. Give it a stir, so that the top leaves get pushed down to the base of the pan, replace the lid and give it another 30 seconds or so, shaking the pan a couple of times. I find the whole operation takes less than 2 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper and a little grated nutmeg and serve.
Spinach is so versatile and can be easily added to your favorite pasta recipe, lasagna, or even omelets and egg dishes. In Italian cuisine, the use of spinach and ricotta together is quite common, and this is a combination that I personally love. I also adore the wonderful Eggs Florentine. A classic egg dish that is perfect for an indulgent weekend brunch or as a simple snack. Spinach also has a special affinity with fish, oysters, mushrooms, sesame seeds, Parmesan and cream. Use spinach cooked in soups, lasagna, pizza toppings or casseroles and stir-fries. Apart from being a nutritional gold mine, spinach can also liven up so many recipes in your kitchen.
SPICED CHICKPEA & SPINACH PATTIES WITH HARRISA MAYONNAISE
- 400g cooked chickpeas, drained
- 150g spinach, cleaned and chopped
- 1 tbsp ras al hanout
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tbsp Gram chickpea flour, plus extra for dusting
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the spinach in a warm frying pan with a knob of butter and stir until wilted. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out any excess water.
Place the chickpeas, ras al hanout, flour and egg yolk in a food processor and blend to a paste. Add the spinach and pulse to combine. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
Dust your hands with flour, then take a 3 tablespoons of the mixture and mould it into an round shape and then flatten into patties. Repeat until all the mixture has been used, then place on a plate or tray dusted with flour. Chill for at least 1 hour until you are ready to cook.
Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the patties for 2–3 minutes until golden brown on both sides and hot all the way through. Serve with salad leaves and harrisa mayonnaise.
For the Harrisa mayonnaise
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 300ml vegetable oil
- 2tps homemade harrisa
For the mayonnaise, place the egg yolks, vinegar and mustard into the bowl of a food processor and blend until pale and creamy. With the motor running, pour in enough vegetable oil, in a steady stream, to form a thick mayonnaise. Add 1-2 spoonfuls of the harissa to the mayonnaise. Stir until well combined.