It even sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But what if you’ve got one of those pillows of spinach just on its last day – you know the ones – they are like a big green cushion and the spinach is already washed and prepared, and you just have to stick a small hole in the corner and microwave the whole thing for a few minutes (and you end up with a large spoonful each). So you look about for other bits….
It was back to good old Delia Smith for me. Look – the recipe feels fun and old too. Here’s the ingredients: (for two)
- 500g bag of spinach (or proper fresh stuff you have to wash first)
- 4 eggs
- Butter (for buttering the cooking dish and for making the cheese sauce)
- Tablespoon of plain flour
- Small (100g or so) of grated cheese. Usually people use Lancashire (harder to find) – but strong cheddar does the job too
- 1/2 pint milk
- 2 tablespoons of double cream or creme fraiche (healthier!)
- Salt and pepper
- Grated nutmeg – a big pinch
- A shaking of parmesan from one of those little pots you keep for spaghetti Bolognese…
(I’ve got this tiny little grater – about 1.5 inches high – just for nutmeg. It is very sweet!)
Butter a baking dish. This means to thinly spread butter al over the inside of the shallow lasagne style dish. This is impossible with a knife. It just won’t go into the corners at all. So put a few lumps into the dish from your knife, then use a teaspoon to spread it about. The small outer surface of the spoon is perfect for spreading a thin layer. While doing that cook the spinach for about 3/4 of its full cook time in the microwave. You need to have it reduced in size. In a perfect world it would cook in the dish in the oven, but spinach is just too enormous uncooked! You need to squeeze the excess water out of the spinach. Best to do this in a metal colander. If you use a plastic mesh one, loads of bits of the leaves stick in the holes and will annoy you for hours when washing it…Use the back of a wooden spoon to spread the spinach out and press the excess out of the leaves. Lovely green brightness should adorn your sink now.
Spread the spinach around the bottom of the dish, evenly. Dot a few bits (about 2 dessert spoons plus) of the cream or creme over it. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and some grated nutmeg. Stick it in the lower part of the oven at 170 if you are fanned. Make up the cheese sauce – a roux first (melt butter – about dessert spoon, and put in 25g of plain flour, mix into a ball, reduce heat to minimum), then very slowly, a teaspoon at a time to start with, add the milk. Keep stirring. You can increase to a bigger splash after each stirring in. Eventually you get fed up and pour the last 1/4 pint in, and stir furiously, swear at the lumps and get the whisk in there to save the day. Let it simmer while you grate the cheese, then melt it in. Pull the dish out of the oven. Now realise you should have put an oven glove on. Start again. Make four little craters in the spinach. Crack each of the eggs into the craters. Don’t worry if the whites flow into each other. Stir a bit more of the cream into your cheese sauce, and pour it over the eggs so it all gets covered. Sprinkle the top with parmesan and a bit more nutmeg. Then into the oven for 15 mins. The eggs poach in the mixture. the parmesan makes the top go brown, beautifully. And no one will realise I have snuck in with a vegetarian dish without realising it. And neither will you. This really is splendid and fun. Feels tasty and a bit healthy, but has a lot of protein in it too. I’d never cooked it before, but this will not be the last time. Have a go and enjoy.
Eggs Florentine? Who would have thought it? I ruined the vegginess though by frying up some bacon lardons, with tomatoes and mushrooms to sprinkle on top. It added a lot of oomph and colour. Tomatoes would have been enough!