Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday lunch – Popeye style

Spinach is definitely my all-time favourite vegetable. I’ve practically grown up on it. My mother tells me that it was very hard to make me eat vegetables when I was little. Carrots and spinach were my standard vegetable diet. She would mix the cooked and chopped spinach leaves with mashed potatoes. The mash usually came with steak or sausages. Luckily things have changed drastically over the last four decades and today I will eat almost any vegetable … except Brussels’ sprouts!

In the early years of my life, the spinach was always fresh; straight from my grandfather’s garden or  bought at our local market or green grocer. It was considered as ‘very-good-for-you’ as it contained a lot or ‘iron’. That’s why Popeye was such a strong man. Whenever his sweetheart Olive was in trouble, Popeye - the sailor man - would squeeze open a tin of spinach, pour it into his mouth and speed to her rescue. Nothing could stop him, not even the formidable Brutus.

Freshly washed spinach leaves.

Later I learned that those funny little cartoons hadn’t been made to promote spinach, but tinned food in general. I had tinned spinach only once and it gave me a bad case of food poisoning. I had been camping with the girl scouts and on the last day of our camping trip we had to make our own lunch, as the mess tent had already been taken down. They gave each troop some sausages, potatoes and a large tin of spinach. We had to cook our lunch over a small camp fire. I remember the tinned spinach having a foul and unappetizing kaki colour.

The next morning I woke up with an itching rash all over my body. My mother called the doctor who prescribed some anti-histaminic tablets to subdue the itching. They made me very sleepy, and I spent almost two days and nights in bed, sleeping and scratching.

A few years later, my grandfather gave up his vegetable garden and my mother started buying frozen spinach … something she still does today. Most of the time I do the same, but just every now and then I buy some fresh leaves. This is what I did last weekend, when I decided to make ‘épinards à la crème aux croutons’ – spinach in a cream sauce and grilled croutons.

This is what you do:
Start by removing the stalks of the spinach leaves before rinsing them in ample cold water. Use a wok to wilt the spinach in butter. A soon as the butter has melted, put in the spinach. Stir well until the leaves have reduced to about half their volume.

eel a fat clove of garlic, cut it in half lengthwise and remove the germ. Firmly stick it on a fork and use the fork to stir the spinach until it has completely wilted. The garlic will subtly flavour the spinach without being too overpowering.

The wilted spinach just before adding the cream.

Finally, add pepper, salt and grated nutmeg to taste. Finish by stirring in some liquid cream. Before serving the spinach, sprinkle some croutons over it. I make my croutons by putting two slices of bread in an oven 140°C for about 20 minutes. You can of course also use an electric toaster.


chm said...

Hi Martine,
Since you don't like Brussels sprouts, have you ever tried choux de Bruxelles? LOL

Your spinach looks so good!

Olga said...

This post reminds me that even such simple thing as spinach can be a theme for a beautiful post.

Niall & Antoinette said...

totally agree! I adore spinach and hate Brussels sprouts.
When I was small my parents 'fooled' me into eating spinach by calling it 'zomergroente' (=summer greens in English). I thought it was exciting & mysterious--they spoke Dutch to each other when they didn't want me to understand what was being said. And of course I could be heard in the playground confidently saying that I hated spinach and that my mom never made me eat it !

The Beaver said...

CHM -mdr !!!!!!


One day try the brussels sprouts using this recipe. I'm sure you will start loving them:
or this one
Since i use fresh ones, I will nuke them for a minute and a half before I add them to the casserole.

Mark said...

Martine, Fred makes this for us. I love it! Before Fred, I would never touch spinach to save my life.
p.s. Four decades? You told me you were 21.
Your Friend, m.

Louise said...

Martine, perhaps try your brussel sprouts like this: melt a little butter, adding a crushed garlic clove, some prosciutto, gently saute together then add some white wine, salt and pepper and steam covered until cooked but green and firm...even my children now cook them this way!

ladybird said...

Chm, lol ... maybe I should give those a try!

Olga, Thank you ...

Antoinette, I think it was the unusual bright green colour of the 'mashed potatoes' that intrigued me and made me eat and like the (hidden) spinach.

The Beaver, Roasting is an option I've never considered before. That first recipe sounds really good. Not so sure about the second one, though. (sorry :))

Mark, If there is one thing a girl is allowed to lie about, it's her age :)

Louise, Thank you. Your recipe is similar to the first recipe the Beaver (see above) recommends. Maybe I should combine them and get the best of both worlds.

Jean said...

I love spinach and sprouts, just plain boiled and served with a roast dinner. I also love cold sprouts !! They are very nice with a salad, believe it or not, and both are very easy to grow.

...I can tell you DON'T believe me !!

ladybird said...

Jean, How can you tell? :^)

Ken Broadhurst said...

I agree with Jean: spinach, brussels sprouts, and then again collard greens, all types of cabbage, cauliflower (and the leaves), turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and on and on. Oh, don't forget chard/silverbeet. Spinach, though, is especially good with eggs. And nutmeg.

ladybird said...

Ken, Spinach and eggs are a mariage made in heaven! And I do like cauliflower, broccoli and red cabbage. The red cabbage perferably slowly cooked with strips of bacon, apples and some red current jelly ... Mmmm, yummy!