Spinach was fairly unpopular in Ireland until recently, I know I never ate it as a child as it didn’t feature much in the Irish kitchen – the closest I got to it was watching Popeye;). It’s only in the last couple of years that I have begun to like it especially since being introduced to the ricotta and spinach combination – these 2 ingredients work so well together! We used to make tarts in La Cucina filled with spinach and ricotta mixed together with lots of Parmesan cheese and they were quite popular and of course the most popular way of eating it has to be in Ravioli. We’ve started selling the mixture in Calzone now and they are selling really well, I do love the broccoli and Italian sausage option too though – mmmm “torn between 2 lovers”…..! We eat it a lot more at home now, we normally have it as a side to a piece of fillet or chicken by just wilting it in the pan with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and a pinch of nutmeg – delicious!!

We all know how nutritious it is as it contains large amounts of vitamin A and C and is full of iron, it does require careful cleaning which takes a little time but it is worth the effort as it is so good for you!!! In Italy it is grown in the North and the centre where the climate is mild but not too hot. Spinach is available all year round now due to modern cultivation techniques whereas before it was only produced in the autumn and winter.When buying spinach the leaves should be firm, fleshy and green with no signs of yellowing, to check for freshness, look at the stalks, they should be firm with no sign of floppiness. Another favourite way of cooking with spinach is in soup and we often have a spinach and potato soup on the menu in La Cucina, this recipe is from the Silver spoon and fresh or frozen spinach can be used

WHAT YOU NEED:

 – 1 litre of veg or meat stock

 – 40g butter

 – 2 onions finely chopped

 – 40g plain flour

 – 500g frozen chopped spinach, thawed. If you are using fresh just blanch it in hot water, drain and squeeze out excess liquid.

 – 3 tbsp lemon juice

 – 2 tbsp double cream

 – salt and pepper

WHAT TO DO:

 – bring the stock to the boil

 – melt the butter in a pot, add the onions and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally for 5 mins until softened.

 – stir in the flour and cook, constantly stirring for 2 minutes, then gradually stir in the hot stock.

 – add the spinach and simmer for 20 minutes.

 – stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat. Liquidize with a hand blender or use a food processor.

 – return to the heat, season with salt and pepper, stir in the cream and simmer briefly.

 – serve with some Parmesan and black pepper on top and a little swirl of cream or olive oil!!

Buon Appetito!!

On the subject of soup – WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE???? Mine would have to be minestrone hands down, it’s just so nourishing and warm on a cold wintry day:)

p.s. There is a new Irish blog on the horizon, the lovely Rachel has taken the plunge and started her own blog “Fairycake Heaven“, most of you would know her from here as Ciao Bella, she always leaves lovely comments on my blog and I’m looking forward to reading her fabulous recipes. Welcome to the blog world Rachel:) 

Today’s Random Cooking Term – “Acidulate”
 – to add vinegar or lemon juice to water for immersing some vegetables, such as globe artichokes to prevent them from turning black before cooking!!

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