I don’t know why I grow spinach. It bolts quite quickly and second sowings never do as well as the first, and you’d need to grow acres of the stuff to get a decent crop. But I grow it every year because it always looks so lush and green and, fresh from the garden, it tastes completely different from the shop-bought stuff. It’s good for you too, even if that Popeye the Sailor Man stuff is a load of rubbish because spinach doesn’t have any more iron than any other leafy green veg. (Although it seems that the ‘misplaced decimal point’ issue that gave rise to the legend is itself a bit of a myth. Read all about it in the Wikipedia article here.)
So what can you cook with the small amount of spinach you’ve just grown because it looks pretty and which the pigeons and sparrows have also decided is really yummy so there’s even less of it than usual?
My favourite recipe, which is very low-carbon since it only involves ingredients from my garden, is Spinach Spanish Omelette. My variation makes a smaller omelette using only 4 eggs (from my chickens). I use spring onions from the garden rather than regular onions, the first of the new potatoes which I slice and boil until just cooked (much easier than frying and healthier too), plus a little dill (which needs thinning out) and some tarragon. I’d usually pick 100 – 200 g of spinach for this recipe, then wash and cook it without adding any more liquid – it makes its own. You have to squeeze all that liquid out (which is definitely the down-side of spinach). I use a potato ricer then, when it’s cool, my hands. Chop the spinach and add it to the eggs with the chopped herbs and chopped spring onion which has been lightly fried in a small (7/8 inch) frying pan. Layer the potatoes in the same frying pan and pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for 10/15 minutes, or until the middle stops wobbling. This is the purist, low-carbon version, but I often sprinkle crumbled feta or grated parmesan over the egg mixture before cooking, in which case I finish it off under the grill to colour up the cheese. This amount feeds 2 or 3 people, if served with a garden salad on the side.
Another great thing to do with spinach is to make spinach soup. This is the recipe I use, also from the BBC Good Food website. Once more, I can’t resist fiddling around with a recipe and this one has way too much liquid for my taste, so I’d recommend adding the minimum and then diluting it at the end if you need to. I also prefer to add 1/4 of a small carton of cream cheese (which can be low fat) at the liquidising stage rather than using milk – this makes the soup creamy without diluting it too much. And do note the tip at the end of the recipe and keep back some of the raw spinach to add when you liquidise. It gives the soup a brilliant fresh green colour.
I also use spinach in curries, on pizza and, best of all if a bit of a faff, in Spanokopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Filo pie). All of which reminds me why I grow spinach every year. In fact, I may sow even more next year …