I used to have great difficulty growing spinach - it would germinate, but then never amount to much before it shot to seed in the heat of summer, and i gave up growing it for a year or two. But a couple of autumns ago i noticed Mitre 10 had spinach seedlings for sale, so i bought a couple of punnets and planted them out. They sat in the ground over winter, not doing much, and then in the spring they shot away, and we had lovely lush spinach as one of my earliest spring crops. Success at last! I tried the same trick again this season, planting my seedlings out in late autumn to overwinter (netting required to keep the birds off, as they seem to go for anything green in the garden over the winter months.... except of course the weeds!). Sadly it didn't work quite so well this year; probably the spinach did not enjoy the extremely waterlogged conditions in the garden over winter and early spring, and it did not grow as well as i had hoped. I was holding off using any, in the hope that the plants would flourish as they had the previous season, but last time i was home i noticed that they were starting to go to seed. I knew that if it was hot while i was
away the spinach would be well gone by the time i got home, so i decided to use some immediately. Conveniently i had just got a book out of our local library that turned out to have a recipe using plenty of spinach... and also eggs, which i have in abundance.
The book is called '100 Ways With Eggs', and is a collection of recipes from around the world by a variety of cooks/chefs and cookbook authors. It includes a range of recipes for breakfast/brunch, appetizers, main meals and desserts. It was not until i recognised the recipe for Asparagus Risotto with a Poached Egg and Parmesan Cheese by Maxine Clarke (included in this blog on 12 October) that i realised that this recipe book was attempting to provide the reader with exactly what i'm trying to do for you in this blog - multiple recipes for items you might find yourself with a surplus of.
The recipe below was the one that really took my fancy out of all those provided, although if i did not already know the risotto recipe mentioned above i would have been delighted to discover that one also.
I gave the souffle a go - it was very tasty, although as you will see from the photo below i managed to slightly overcook it. However it will definitely go on my list of recipes to cook again, particularly if i find myself with a happy glut of spinach in future seasons.
When i arrived home from my trip 2 days ago, i found i had been correct in my expectations, and my spinach was pretty far gone, but if you live in a slightly cooler, damper part of the country (is there such a place these days? It sounds like we have all been experiencing some very hot, dry conditions lately) perhaps you will still have spinach to use. I was pleased to find the husband had been gallantly using going-to-seed spinach while i was away, so he scored some brownie points for that. I'll try and use the last few leaves in a salad tonight.
SPINACH and TOMATO SOUFFLE
From '100 Ways With Eggs', compiled and edited by Stephanie Miller
500 g fresh spinach
300 g ripe tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
50 g butter
50 g plain flour
200 ml warm milk (whole milk, not reduced fat)
5 eggs, separated, plus one egg white
sea salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to season
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
Rinse the spinach under cold running water. Put in a saucepan or pot, cover with boiling water and set over a medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted, then drain, cool, squeeze dry and roughly chop.
Next, scald the tomatoes. Pour boiling water over the ripe tomatoes in a heatproof bowl. Set aside for 1 minute, drain and carefully peel off the skin using a sharp knife. Roughly chop, reserving any juices, and set aside.
heat the oil in a frying pan/skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and bay leaf and fry for 2 minutes, until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, mix with a wooden spoon to help the tomatoes break down, stir in the tomato paste and cook uncovered for 5 minutes to form a thick sauce. Remove and discard the bay leaf. In a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot set over a medium heat, melt the butter. Mix in the flour, stirring well. gradually stir in the warm milk and cook, stirring continuously, until it thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove the white sauce from the heat. Mix in the tomato sauce, then the spinach. Check and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time and set aside.
Grease a 2-litre capacity souffle dish.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir a spoonful of the whisked egg white into the souffle mixture to loosen it. Lightly and gently fold in the remaining whisked egg white. Pour into the prepared souffle dish and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, until the souffle has risen and turns golden brown.
Serve at once.