Jane Grigson (from Vegetable Book, Penguin, 1978) rhapsodises about spinach at the start of this chapter giving its history – first known descriptions are by the Chinese whose name for it still translates as ‘Persian vegetable’. Obviously we’d say Iranian now, but the influence of the name from that language, aspanakh, is clear. Its first recorded use in English food was in 1568 and apparently it became very popular very quickly, probably because it grows so well in the UK. I love spinach (and swiss chard) so much that as a child, I thought of it as a treat, especially when stirred through pasta with cheese.
I love how this recipe leads you to understanding what you’re making, rather than being didactic instructions. You don’t know how long it will take for your onions to turn golden but when they have, it’s time for the next step.
Cream of Spinach Soup
3 tablespoons of chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 heaped tablespoon flour
½ litre veal or chicken stock
½ kilo spinach
½ litre milk
125ml whipping cream
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, sugar
Chives (see recipe)
Cook the onion and garlic gently in the butter, with a lid on the pan. When the mixture looks golden, stir in the flour, then the stock or the water. Add the spinach, cover and simmer until the spinach is cooked. Sieve through a mouli-legumes, or puree in a blender for a really smooth soup.
Reheat adding milk, or milk and water to achieve the desired thickness, then the cream. Check the seasoning if you used water rather than stock for instance, you will need a good bit of salt. Use sugar to bring out the flavour, but don’t overdo it. The traditional extra flavouring is nutmeg but in early summer I think chives taste better on account of their freshness.
Serve with a bowl of croutons, if the soup if part of a fairly large meal. If the soup is the meal, serve it with toast covered with cheese and set under a hot grill for a few moments; it makes a good supper.
- I halved the recipe i.e. 250g spinach.
- I used nutmeg in the portion I ate because it was too late at night to go hunting outside for chives. The rest I froze.
- I used a chicken stock cube. I can’t remember the last time I cooked a whole chicken. (This recipe could, of course, become vegetarian if vegetable stock was used.)
Instead of a crock shot, today you may have a peak into the process – a very experienced saucepan, book balanced on empty ice cream tub, held open with a nearest thing to hand. The soup is pre-liquidising, post milk-adding.
This is much much richer than the soup I would normally make (just spinach, olive oil, onions, garlic, seasoning and chicken stock). I had it with toast but no cheese and didn’t think it needed it. I also wasn’t tempted to sprinkle some lardons on the top, which is my other method of dressing up spinach soup. In fact felt it might need some finely chopped parsley as well as some chives, to cut the richness. More of a dinner party soup, less of a ‘I’m tired/ailing – what nutritious thing can I find in the freezer and reheat?’
Souped up by Elly