Spinach in disguise

My spinach did rather well this spring, just looking at a clump of plump green leaves poking out of the ground is enough to make me square my shoulders and feel the goodness of Popeye. Unfortunately, the kids don’t have the same reaction and it takes constant vigilance to ensure this vegetable is well disguised, so that all the nutritious zinc, potassium and a multitude of vitamins finds its way into their growing bodies in sizeable quantities.

The two best disguises in our house seem to be Tuna Layer – where the presence of a few crisps and a handful of grated cheese on the top distracts the eye from the bunch of green leaves below – and Spinach Flan which, admittedly does lead to a general chorus of: “OMG Mum, that’s very green!” but the nutmeg in it seems to sooth them into colour-blindness, and a second helping.

Tuna Layer: Ingredients: 300g to 500g of spinach (washed), 2 large tins of tuna, a large onion (chopped), a tin of chopped tomatoes, a carton of natural yoghurt, a couple of handfuls of grated cheese, a packet of salted crisps.

Method: Heat the oven to 200ºC. In an ovenproof dish place the spinach in the bottom. Top it with the chopped onion, a handful of cheese and the flaked tuna. Pour over the tomatoes and top with blobs of yoghurt. Smash up the crisps and press them over the top of the mixture before scattering over the second handful of grated cheese. Cook for 25 minutes.Image

Spinach flan: Ingredients: Either buy pastry or, if you prefer to avoid all those preservatives, make it with half fat to flour, I reckon 60g of fat to 120g flour is about right although you may wish to double that and freeze the other half for another day. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs and then add a couple of tablespoons of cold water until it forms a solid lump, leaves the sides of the bowl clean, but is not sticky. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling. Filling: 300g spinach, 200g cottage cheese, 2 eggs, 75g parmesan, 150ml milk, half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg.

Method: Heat the oven to 190ºC. Grease the flan dish and roll the pastry so that it lines the dish. Wash the spinach and drain. Put the damp leaves in a large pan with a pinch of salt (don’t add water). Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper then blend into a smooth mixture. Pour the mixture into the flan case and bake for 35 minutes. Delicious hot or cold.

Although spinach will come to an end in the next few weeks as the thermometer goes higher, the plants can last far longer than many vegetables so it’s worth starting seedlings off as early as the end of August to get the maximum cropping time for your healthy leaves.