Lightly Spiced Spinach with Apricots

Spiced Spinach and Apricots

by Azélia on 14/03/2010

in Featured Sidebar Post,Salads,Vegan,Vegetables,Vegetarian

Some dishes have personal memories attached to them and this is one of them.  About two years into our relationship Bikerboy decided to cook Valentine’s dinner for me, he had picked out a recipe from the recently bought Cinnamon Club cookery book and saw a picture of a cylinder shaped breast of chicken stuffed with spinach and served with cashew nut sauce.  I think he fell in love with the picture because even with my persuasive skills I couldn’t convince him to choose a less time consuming dish.  It was a midweek day, I knew he would in no way have the time to cook the whole dish after work, not for someone who had only cooked a dozen meals in his lifetime. He had to open the chicken breasts flatten them out, cook the spiced spinach, stuf the breasts, rolling, tying them and wrapping them in clingfilm, poaching them, making the cashew nut sauce, and finishing the breasts in the pan to give them colour, and let’s not forget making an accompaniment to the chicken.  I was envisaging eating at 11 o’clock, not quite the evening I was hoping for.

I did at least managed to convince him that he should prep some of the dish the night before, so he would just have the breast ready for cooking on the night.  He did agree afterwards it was too much for one evening’s cooking, we had a delicious meal, he was extremely proud of himself rightly so and my absolute favourite of the whole meal was the stuffing, this spinach with apricots.  In the original recipe it states to use paneer cheese but it wasn’t something we could find easily and adapted with ricotta cheese, we have also made it with mascarpone cheese, very successfully.

This is my favourite way of having cooked spinach and I will change the ingredients according to what’s in the cupboard.  I have swapped the dried apricots with dried mango (using less), and the spices I’ll swap around depending what mood I’m in or what spice jars I grab.  When I’m making this dish just for me I’ll leave out the cheese and it’s as delicious without so it’s pretty much up to the cook.

I know there are people out there who can’t abide the mixture of slightly sweet things such as dried fruit with savouriness, I would put my Dad into that category, in this case I would say omit the dried fruit and just make the spinach with the spices.  This spinach dish is very accommodating, you can serve it straight away or make it the day before and heat it up, it’s also good served at room temperature.

The original recipe requires for the spinach to be chopped up roughly in a food processor.  I’ve made this dish with chopped up leaves and made it leaving the leaves whole, I would recommend highly to chop up the leaves.  If you’re lazy like me to bring out the processor, just chop leaves roughly  by hand with a large knife.  The reason being when the leaves are left whole the spinach clusters together in lumps when stir-frying them, and the spices and fruit aren’t able to spread evenly throughout the spinach.  If it’s chopped up, when you come to eat it, in every forkful you’ll taste everything that’s in the dish.  For the same reason chop up the apricots into small pieces.

The original recipe states green chillies but I like the specks of red inbetween the green the red chili gives you, they’re also milder and I’m a scary cat when it comes to chili, you can leave it out altogether.

It’s important to heat the cumin seeds in the hot oil for a few seconds until they sizzle and their aroma starts to waff through to your nose but don’t let them fry for long because they’ll burn easily.

Lightly Spiced Spinach with Apricots

250-350g •  9-12 oz  •  fresh spinach chopped up roughly
30 ml • 2 tablespoons flavourless vegetable oil like sunflower
1 medium onion chopped finely
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
50g • 2 oz  dried apricots apricots chopped up small (you can substitute other dried fruit)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1  garlic clove chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon of mild red chili
1/2 teaspoon of salt
nutmeg freshly grated,  generous amount
1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
(or mix your own choose a least three from the following; ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cardamon, ground fennel, ground caraway, ground bayleaves, ground turmeric, ground star anise, ground cinnamon, ground cloves.)

1-2 tablespoons of panner or ricotta or mascarpone cheese – optional

Garam masala is a name for a mixture of spices and jars from difference sources will vary, so read the label and see what you’re buying.  Personally I’m not keen on garam masala that has a strong taste of cloves and I’ll try and buy ones that have cardamon, like all ready ground spices it will loose its fragrance and intensity after few months.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the whole cumin seeds let them sizzle and release their aroma but it will only takes seconds and don’t let them burn.  Add the finely chopped onion turn the heat down and let the onion cook through for a few minutes until it turns translucent, starts to turn golden, add the ginger, garlic, salt and chili, sir for a few seconds.  Turn the heat up and add the spinach.

Keep stirring the spinach as you would do for a stir-fry and when it begins to wilt down add dried apricots and garam masala and nutmeg and stir until everything is well mixed in and you’re happy, I don’t like to cook the spinach for very long after adding the last spices.  The more you cook spinach the more water is released.  If you’re adding the cheese add it in the last 30 seconds to a minute to warm it through.

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