With a bittersweet, metallic taste, spinach is a vegetable that divides the masses. Originating from Persian soils, spinach is commonly used in Asian cooking, particularly seen in Indian and Chinese cuisines. However, spinach has long been established in Britain, making headway across the globe and into Europe in the 12th Century. Best enjoyed at its prime throughout the spring months, this iron and calcium-rich vegetable is abundant in vitamins, antioxidants and folic acids. Whether you choose the dark crinkly leaves of savoy, or the flat leaves of the smooth variety, spinach can be used raw, steamed, sautéed or stirred through sauces and soups.
Seasonal period: March to June
Flavour friends: Spinach’s metallic flavours are often softened when combined with creamy tasting ingredients. Cheeses works particularly well, with classic combinations coming from the pairing of ricotta and dolce latte. Cheese with bite helps to counteract the bitterness of spinach, therefore parmesan and feta are great flavour friends. The sweet, earthiness in these leaves are also enhanced by the addition of nutmeg – this is particularly effective when added to creamy spinach sauces.
Buying, storing and preparing: Look for dark, vibrant looking leaves that appear firm and plump. Store in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag for up to 4 days. Before cooking, wash thoroughly a couple of times to remove any grit or dirt and allow to drain. At this stage, simply steam in a lidded pan in the residual water from washing, or stir through sauces and allow to wilt.
Cooking: Spinach can be eaten raw as a garnish or base to a salad, otherwise it can be cooked extremely quickly either steamed or sautéed.
Steamed: 5 mins. Sautéed: 3 – 4 mins.
Words by Helen Upshall