Two thousand years, and despite a journey from Persia, India, China and Nepal, via Sicily, Germany and Spain, loads of people don’t like spinach. I was one of them, when I was younger. No amount of Popyeye marketing could convince me that it was worth me putting it in my mouth. Squishy, slimy and metallic, I turned my young-, teenaged- and my-early-twenties-nose up at it. But slowly, slowly, softly, softly, I noticed it begin creeping into my diet. A spinach daal here, some saag paneer there, baby spinach in a salad, just creeping in around the edges, usually whacked on the head with curry spices or a hefty dressing. Once I noticed, though, I started to think whether I should give spinach another chance. 5 years(ish) later, and there’s now always a bag of the stuff in the fridge, and it gets eaten at a pace which means the last dregs don’t go slimy.

My Dad still hates spinach, despite my proselytising, and will refuse it, but I chew through tons of the stuff. Starting from simply washed and dressed into a salad, on to wilting it into garlic oil, in a rich tomato sauce with baked eggs, and, probably my favourite, boatloads of the stuff mixed through with spice and paneer.

Raw spinach ranks above cooked in my view, and I use it much more frequently as a salad or sandwich leaf than as a cooking ingredient. My favourite dish is a spinach and feta salad with toasted seeds and a paprika dressing, so, in the spirit of increased spinach, here’s the recipe:

For the dressing

  • 2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar
  • 6 teaspoons of Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 0.25 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 0.25 teaspoons of hot paprika
  • 0.75 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper

Put the above into a bowl and whisk, or, if you have one, a small, clean jam jar and shake. I prefer the latter.

For the salad

  • 120g leaf spinach, whole-leaf if you’re using baby spinach, shredded if grown-up
  • 40 grams of pumpkin seeds
  • 15 grams of sunflower kernels
  • 10 grams of pine nuts
  • 130 grams of flaked almonds
  • 100 grams of feta cheese

Heat a dry frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels, and pine nuts. Toast gently, moving them continually, until they hiss and pop and begin to colour.

Tip the contents of the pan onto a plate and add the flaked almonds to the empty pan, to toast in the residual heat. Remove once brown.

Wash the spinach and spin dry. Put the clean spinach into a large bowl and crumble the feta cheese over it. Tip all the seeds on top of the spinach and cheese (don’t worry if there’s a slight sizzle) and add the mixed dressing.

Mix through with your hands and serve.

Originally published at www.bagofonions.com on May 11, 2015.

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