Follow our expert tips for making the most of scrumptious fresh spinach!
Spinach is a hugely popular ingredient in South Africa, and our whatsfordinner fans love it when we post new recipes. Here are our hints and suggestions for using this iron- and vitamin-packed fresh ingredient to add nourishment and flavour to your family dinners.
HINTS FOR BUYING SPINACH
• What most South Africans call ‘spinach’ is technically Swiss chard, a large, dark crumpled leaf with a thick white stalk. It’s not much different in taste from real spinach, which has a flatter, lighter, more tender leaf.
• ‘Real’ spinach is available in South Africa, often in the form of baby leaves, which are delicious eaten raw in salads.
• You can use either Swiss chard or spinach in the recipes below. Our tips in this article also work well with morogo (wild green leaves).
• When buying spinach of either type, choose fresh-looking leaves with crisp stems that are not floppy or discoloured.
• Buy more fresh spinach than you think you’ll need. When it has been steamed or stir-fried, it reduces in size by about two-thirds (see below).
• If you’re buying ready-trimmed spinach in a bag, make sure the leaves look fresh and not wilted or slimy.
• Look out for interesting varieties of Swiss chard with bright pink or yellow stalks.
HOW TO COOK SPINACH
• First trim your spinach. If the stalks are thick and tough, remove them as follows: Hold the central ‘rib’ of the spinach in one hand, then fold the leaves in half as if you are closing a book. Use your other hand to rip the folded leaves away and outwards from the stalk. Discard the stalks.
• If the stalks are young and tender, cut them off where they meet the leaves, and slice them.
• It’s really important to rinse spinach very well before you cook it. This will remove any grit or bugs hiding in the ‘folds’. Plunge the leaves into a sink full of cold water, and swish them around under the water.
• If you are preparing fresh, young spinach, heat some olive oil in a pan and quickly stir-fry the leaves for a minute or two, or until they are just wilted. Serve immediately with flavours of your choice, such as lemon juice, olive oil and a KNORR Stock Pot – see ideas below).
• If you are cooking Swiss chard (see ‘Hints for buying spinach’, above) get ready to steam it.
• Put a very large pot on the stove, over a medium-high heat. Remove the spinach from the water, give it a quick shake, and dump it all into the pot, with water still clinging to the leaves.
• Cover the pot with a lid and steam the spinach for 6-10 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted and softened. Stir the spinach now and then, turning it over in the pot with a pair of tongs. If the pot looks as if it’s drying out, add a splash of water.
• If you’d like to cook the sliced stalks, add them to the pot with a little olive oil or margarine 5 minutes before you add the wet leaves. Fry them gently until just tender, then add the leaves.
• When the spinach is soft, and has reduced in size by about two thirds, tip it into a colander or sieve set over a sink. Place a plate on top and weigh it down with a few tins from your cupboard. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes.
• When the spinach is cool enough to handle, gather it up between your hands and squeeze hard. It’s important to drain spinach well, as it contains a lot of liquid that leak out and ruin the texture of a finished dish.
• Once you’ve squeezed the liquid out of the leaves, place the compressed ‘ball’ of spinach on a board and chop or slice it finely.
• Now continue with your recipe, or add some wonderful flavours…
HOW TO FLAVOUR SPINACH
Here is a list of ingredients that go beautifully with spinach.
• A KNORR Vegetable or Chicken Stock Pot. Gently reheat your cooked, chopped spinach in a pot with some olive oil or margarine. When the leaves are hot, add the contents of the stock pot and stir until dissolved. This will add great depth of flavour and help season the spinach. Now add extra ingredients, such as…
• Crispy bacon bits
• Cream, sour cream, or Greek yoghurt
• Cream cheese
• Chopped onion, fried until soft
• Feta, Cheddar or ricotta
• Garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
• Nutmeg. This spice is spinach’s best friend, but use it sparingly - just a pinch or two will do.
• Eggs. Try topping a pile of seasoned, steamed spinach with a poached or fried egg.
SPINACH IDEAS & RECIPES
• Whip up a simple spinach side dish by combining your cooked spinach with crumbled feta cheese, plus a splash of KNORR Greek Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste and serve hot or warm.
• Use spinach to create a cheesy topping for baked potatoes: Baked Potatoes with Creamed Spinach and Feta.
• Combine the fresh leaves with bacon, apple and dried cranberries to make a truly interesting Spinach Salad.
• Use spinach in lasagnes to add lovely colour and nourishment: try our Easy Butternut Spinach Lasagne.
• Add cooked spinach to your pap to create tasty imfino pap – it’s delicious with our Peri-Peri Chicken!
Ten more inspired spinach recipes from Chef Wendy’s kitchen: