Bringing spinach in the spotlight
The superfood doesn’t have to be boring; here are fun uses of the green leaf
I have mentioned before that you’ll probably find me wandering around the farmers’ market most weekend mornings, picking up goodies for the week ahead. Why, many people ask me? It’s because I love the freshness of the produce and the friendly local atmosphere.
If, like me, you’ve ever cooked bagged spinach from the supermarket, you would have experienced a situation like this. You pop a huge bag in the microwave for one to two minutes, and trying not to scald your hand you open the bag — and the results are always disappointing. Plus, to serve a family portion you would need a bag of spinach the size of a pillow case. And where does that green water come from? I’ve done some research and cooking spinach in the microwave dramatically reduces the cooking time, hence retaining the nutrients, so it’s not all bad news.
If, like me, you’ve ever cooked bagged spinach from the supermarket, you would have experienced a situation like this. You pop a huge bag in the microwave for one to two minutes, and trying not to scald your hand you open the bag
However, organic spinach is something I will always pick up from the market. Shop-bought, bagged stuff has nothing on this, and you don’t need to buy heaps of the stuff to get a decent portion.
The green leaf is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin A, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K, so it’s a nutrient-packed vegetable, with some hard-to-spell contents. As a child I was told the classic “eat your spinach and you’ll have muscles like Popeye”. I was a little sceptical; I like spinach, but don’t love it. I have ordered it at many restaurants — steamed, creamed, stir-fired, I’ve tried them all. However, for its nutritional value, I will cook the leaves regularly and have many tried and tested recipes. I’ve mixed cooked spinach with soft cheese and filled peppers or mushrooms, topped them with cheese, and baked them in the oven — they are delicious. Chopped, spinach can be used in a quiche filling; topped with spring onions and a dusting of cayenne pepper, it’s a winner.
One of the most successful dishes I’ve made was inspired by the 100s of 30-second cooking videos I watch. However, I didn’t take the full recipe but used the potato base as my inspiration for the recipe alongside; it’s almost like a potato gratin roll. For the best results this recipe requires a mandolin; however, patience and a sharp knife will work just as well.
This dish also features my absolute favourite fungus; mushrooms. I use them in so many recipes, including this one. The Portobello variety I think is the most versatile, and my veggie and non-veggie mates love when I season and shallow fry them, add some mozzarella cheese slices and serve it with some salad in a fresh toasted bun. A weekend starter, sliced in an omelette or cooked in some melted butter and garlic spread over toast — there are endless possibilities for this versatile duo. And if you are one of those unusual people who doesn’t like mushrooms, you can substitute them with grilled, flaked salmon fillets.
Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield