I have mentioned before that you’ll probably find me wandering around the farmers’ market most weekend mornings, picking up goodies for the week ahead. Why, many people ask me? It’s because I love the freshness of the produce and the friendly local atmosphere.
If, like me, you’ve ever cooked bagged spinach from the supermarket, you would have experienced a situation like this. You pop a huge bag in the microwave for one to two minutes, and trying not to scald your hand you open the bag — and the results are always disappointing. Plus, to serve a family portion you would need a bag of spinach the size of a pillow case. And where does that green water come from? I’ve done some research and cooking spinach in the microwave dramatically reduces the cooking time, hence retaining the nutrients, so it’s not all bad news.
However, organic spinach is something I will always pick up from the market. Shop-bought, bagged stuff has nothing on this, and you don’t need to buy heaps of the stuff to get a decent portion.
The green leaf is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin A, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K, so it’s a nutrient-packed vegetable, with some hard-to-spell contents. As a child I was told the classic “eat your spinach and you’ll have muscles like Popeye”. I was a little sceptical; I like spinach, but don’t love it. I have ordered it at many restaurants — steamed, creamed, stir-fired, I’ve tried them all. However, for its nutritional value, I will cook the leaves regularly and have many tried and tested recipes. I’ve mixed cooked spinach with soft cheese and filled peppers or mushrooms, topped them with cheese, and baked them in the oven — they are delicious. Chopped, spinach can be used in a quiche filling; topped with spring onions and a dusting of cayenne pepper, it’s a winner.
One of the most successful dishes I’ve made was inspired by the 100s of 30-second cooking videos I watch. However, I didn’t take the full recipe but used the potato base as my inspiration for the recipe alongside; it’s almost like a potato gratin roll. For the best results this recipe requires a mandolin; however, patience and a sharp knife will work just as well.
This dish also features my absolute favourite fungus; mushrooms. I use them in so many recipes, including this one. The Portobello variety I think is the most versatile, and my veggie and non-veggie mates love when I season and shallow fry them, add some mozzarella cheese slices and serve it with some salad in a fresh toasted bun. A weekend starter, sliced in an omelette or cooked in some melted butter and garlic spread over toast — there are endless possibilities for this versatile duo. And if you are one of those unusual people who doesn’t like mushrooms, you can substitute them with grilled, flaked salmon fillets.
POTATO GRATIN, SPINACH & MUSHROOM ROLL
Serves 6, prep time 25 minutes, cooking time 45-50 minutes
FOR THE GRATIN
1 large potato
150g grated mozzarella
1 tsp of mixed herbs
1 free-range egg, beaten
50g grated Parmesan
1 tsp of mustard seeds
Salt & pepper
FOR THE FILLING
450g cooked spinach
1 tbsp of unsalted butter
400g chopped mushrooms
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp of smoked paprika
250g ricotta cheese
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 35 x 25cm baking sheet. Using a mandolin thinly slice the potato, rinse, drain then dry on some paper towel. Line the baking sheet with half of the mozzarella.
Next, layer the potato on the baking sheet, overlapping each slice. Top with the remainder of the mozzarella, mixed herbs, then bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Place the spinach with half a cup of water in a bowl, cover and cook in the microwave for three minutes, drain and leave to cool.
Over medium heat melt the butter with the mushrooms, garlic and paprika. Stirring occasionally, cook until soft, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Next, in a large bowl combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, mixed spice and season. Remove the potato from the oven and leave to cool, long enough so that you can handle the baking tray.
Lift the paper to loosen the potato. Evenly spread over the spinach. Add the mushrooms, then from the narrowest side lift the potato sheet and roll.
Place the roll in the centre of the tray, brush with egg, top with Parmesan and mustard seeds, then bake for 20 minutes. When the outside is golden remove from the oven, slice and serve.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix.