For about 9 months of the year we have silver beet, (or Swiss chard if you are in US). There’s a few months from midsummer to midautumn when the grasshoppers feast on any left in the garden, but there aren’t many left because most spring plantings just bolt to seed. Egyptian spinach – Mulaheyah – fills the gap. But proper English spinach, now that’s another thing.
Spinach is up there with kale, one of those superfoods with enough vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients to make vitamin pills look silly. In particular, cooked spinach is a stunning source of Vitamin K, useful for preventing osteoporosis among other things. Silver beet substitutes for spinach in most recipes, but real spinach, soil grown in season, is a treat. I’m at the edge of the climate range for real English spinach, but for a month or so each year in late winter we feast on it.
Silver beet is a bit tougher and does better for longer cooking. Spinach though just needs to be blanched. Under a poached egg, with lemony garlicky mushrooms, in Greens as Themselves. Or in these little spinach and cheese rolls that are not baked but shallow fried so they come together fast.
This makes just a dozen little canape sized rolls. I like making recipes in small quantities myself – it saves leftovers and often there’s a quantum leap in how fast and easy it is to make a little batch to a big batch. And for you, a small batch gives you a chance to decide if you like it or if you want to tweak the recipe for your own taste before you commit too many ingredients. But, having said all that, the recipe can easily be doubled or trebled, and I would think they would freeze well before frying – just like ravioli, in layers separated with greaseproof paper. Which would allow you to just take a few out to fry for lunch boxes whenever. I am looking forward to trying them out on nearly 3-year-old Teo but I imagine they might be very kids lunch box acceptable. They are very adult lunch box acceptable.
To make the wrappers:
Blend an egg with ½ cup of plain flour (wholemeal or unbleached) and a pinch of salt to make a kneadable dough. If it is too dry, add a teaspoon or two of oil. This is a basic pasta or won-ton recipe, so I would think you could use bought wrappers if you like, but making your own is so very easy and you get to use real egg.
Let it rest for a minute while you make the filling, then roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a well floured benchtop, or with a pasta machine, to make a long strip, about 10 cm (4 inches) wide. Make the ends as square as you can so you don’t have to trim too much off to square them up.
Meanwhile, make the filling:
Blanch a bunch of spinach in boiling water for just a minute or two to wilt it, then drain and squeeze it to remove all the liquid. It will reduce to about ¼ cup.
Put it in the food processor (you don’t need to wash it after the pastry blending) with
- 1 ball of bocconcini (or you could substitute 35 gm or so of mozzarella or any really melty cheese)
- 1 slice parmesan or any tasty cheese
Pulse the spinach in the food processor with the cheeses very briefly, just to chop it all together without blending it. Taste the filling and add salt to taste. I like adding half a teaspoon of grated lemon rind too. Or, for adults, a little touch of wasabi. Taste and see what you think.
To assemble and cook:
Mix a dessertspoon of plain flour with a little water to make a paste. Use a pastry brush, or just your fingers, to spread it thinly over the pastry. Leave a smidgen for later.
Lay the spinach mixture down the middle, then roll it into a log.
Paint the top side with the leftover flour and water paste and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Cut into 75 cm (3 inch) lengths, then let them sit to dry on a floured benchtop for 10 minutes or so.
Heat 10 cm (½ inch) or so of oil in a heavy bottomed fry pan. (I use light olive oil for frying like this because it has a high enough smoke point and it’s monounsaturated). Fry the rolls until they are golden, turning with tongs.
They are wonderful warm but also ideal for lunch boxes or made-ahead hors d’oeuvres with a spicy dipping sauce.