Used in almost every cuisine across the world, spinach is an enormously popular and versatile green vegetable. The leaves can be either flat or slightly ruffled, and are a bright green when young, deepening to a more intense colour when older. The bitter flavour is distinctive – you either love it or hate it – and particularly complements dairy products and eggs.
The milder, young leaves can be eaten raw in a salad, while the older ones are usually cooked (spinach has one of the shortest cooking times of all vegetables). It reduces very dramatically during cooking; a 450g bag will be just enough for two people.
Available all year round, but at its best from April through to September. Have a go at growing your own if you’ve got a fairly large veg patch or allotment. Go for spinach with bright green leaves, tender but crisp stems and a fresh smell. Avoid any that is yellowing or wilting.
Try the following recipe for a Spring take on a traditional Italian recipe Our vibrant green spinach risotto with crispy strips of prosciutto makes an indulgent dinner for two. It’s fresh and full of spring flavours
Green Spinach & Lemon Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto
750ml warm vegetable stock or chicken stock
small bunch parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
4 slices prosciutto
1 thyme sprig, leaves picked
1 leek, the white part finely chopped (freeze the green part to use in stock)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
150g arborio risotto rice
75ml dry white wine or vermouth
20g parmesan, grated plus extra to serve
½ lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp double cream (optional)
whole nutmeg, for grating
Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Blanch the spinach and parsley in the stock for 30 seconds until wilted and bright green, then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool for a moment. Turn the stock down to a low heat. Squeeze out any excess water from the spinach and parsley, then tip into a food processor or mini chopper. Add 2 tbsp of the olive oil and 1 tbsp water, then blitz to a fine purée and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan or skillet and fry the prosciutto until crisp. Transfer the prosciutto to a plate covered with kitchen paper and set aside. Put half the butter, the thyme leaves, leek and garlic in the frying pan and season. Scrape up any crisp bits left over from the prosciutto and fry gently for a few mins over a medium heat until the leek is softened and aromatic but not browning. Add the rice, stirring to coat in the garlic mix, and cook for 2 mins until turning translucent, then pour in the wine and cook for another 2 mins until evaporated. Add one ladleful of the warm stock and cook until absorbed, stirring continuously.
Continue this process one ladleful at a time for 20-30 mins, stirring constantly, until the rice is creamy but still retaining a little bite and without a chalky core. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the remaining butter, the parmesan, most of the lemon zest, the lemon juice and cream (if using). Stir through the spinach purée, then season well with a little freshly grated nutmeg. Divide between two plates, top with the crisp prosciutto and sprinkle over a little more parmesan and lemon zest.