Frozen spinach is all right but for this marvellous dish of simple buttered spinach only bright fresh leaves will do.
It's my favourite spinach dish
My favourite way of preparing spinach is the simplest: wilted, buttered and then buttered again. It must be fresh, picked off stems, young and tender leaves only. It’s so, so good I can have it on its own, and every other day.
What to serve buttered spinach with?
The classic Italian side to a steak is spinach, and it might not sound quite right to us but hey! don't Italians know best? More conventionally, you can serve it with fish. And it takes me right back to my childhood whenever I prepare buttered spinach and mashed potatoes: those two were virtually the only vegetables I liked.
How to wash spinach leaves?
I know – it’s so tempting to thaw a packet of frozen spinach or even throw it into a saucepan like chunks of an iceberg and let the heat do the job.
Fresh spinach usually needs to be washed unless you pick it from your garden (where no cats are allowed) and I don't really trust those bags of ready washed leaves: 'chlorinated' is a scary word.
Washing is a chore but it's worth it. I usually throw the leaves into a sink with cold water, shake them about to lose the soil and snails and then put them, in batches, through a salad spinner. I then bag them and keep for up to a week when it's prepared like this.
Know your spinach
Spinach is super easy to prepare it, not only buttered like below but also with blue cheese or cream; but it’s just as easy to ruin it if you handle it wrong.
Baby spinach is a bit ridiculous and fit only for a dainty salad. Why would you want to pick tiny leaves instead of letting them grow bigger and meatier? Spinach shrinks to nothing when cooked anyway.
But just as bad are huge, overgrown tough leaves: they go dirty grey colour when blanched and taste bitter.
Pick the leaves off the stems
Stems are a nasty element of a spinach dish – pick the leaves off them whatever you do. Often even reasonably good restaurants don’t bother to do it, and it’s like you were served a dish of beanstalks rather than creamy greens.
Do we always need to blanch spinach?
If you have fresh, clean, nicely grown spinach rinse it thoroughly and spin in a salad spinner, as explained above; and there's no need to blanch it.
It will release less moisture handled that way than if you blanch and try to squeeze the living daylights out of it. Trust me.
More recipes with spinach
This is a nifty way of cooking fish: under a spinach blanket. Sea bass with spinach bakes in the oven in 10 minutes.
Greeks know their spinach: spanakopita, spinach filo pie is perfectly easy to make at home. And if you want to use up leftover roast lamb, make a spinach and lamb pie.
But Italians do it just as well: chicken Fiorentina, anyone? Or the full works of spinach and ricotta lasagne?
And spinach tastes great when paired with lentils, or with courgettes: two wholesome vegetarian dishes.
More simple side dish recipes
Creamy mushrooms are as great with steak as spinach is – and this recipe uses fresh shiitake mushrooms.
Roasted savoy cabbage – absolute bags of flavour, and it’s cooked in the oven!
Broccoli deserve better than being miserably boiled. Try sesame roasted broccoli, with a bite and character.
The same goes for cabbage: stir fry it with garlic and tomatoes for a completely new cabbage experience.