Főzelék is a special category in Hungarian cuisine which is basically a vegetable stew made from all kind of different vegetables. I couldn’t give them enough importance they deserve on this blog, however I had adventures with nettle stew, I cooked főzelék from green peas that I grew in our own kitchen garden, and lentil stew for New Year, which is a tradition in Hungary.
Surprisingly I haven’t cooked spinach stew yet, although it is my favourite actually. Especially the way my grandmother used to serve it when I went to her for lunch after school: with grated potato garnish, with pörkölt and savoury French toast. Maybe you are thinking now that this is already too much of a good thing, and you are probably right. Still, I remember the taste of those spinach stews, and the fact that this gastronomic indulgence was always followed by some crêpes that my grandmother freshly baked for me as a dessert.
I decided to make a more consolidated version of this meal for you, so I serve it with the grated potatoes and put a spoonful of the heavenly turkey pörkölt on top that my mother cooked exactly the day I made my plan for the spinach stew. There are no accidents.
There was still a challenge for me in this project: how can I make spinach – which is basically a simple green leaf which will become a puree- visually pleasing and photogenic. As I start experimenting with photos, I get more and more enthusiastic about it and after removing stems I spontaneously give it a swing. So the abstract green spinach bird of happiness was born- at least Melcsi, my friend and I think it is (maybe you will see something else from this abstract! ). Melcsi, who is residing Madeira Islands right now, is following my adventures online. After our statement about the bird we burst out laughing which wipes away for a moment all of our actual worries, fears and the responsibility of responding our inner calling.
Suddenly I realise that sometimes it is worth to step out of the role of a serious adult that I have become and fly back into my childhood’s world when there was no problem either about forming green birds from spinach or eating vegetable stew with a teaspoon. And this is exactly what I am going to do now, only for the feeling.
Spinach stew (Spenótfőzelék) with grated potato garnish
600 g fresh spinach
1 day-old bread roll
800 ml milk (or a little bit more if you want it thinner)*
6 teaspoons /40 g plain flour
2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil **
salt according to your taste
For the potato garnish:
500 g potatoes
1 small yellow onion
olive-or sunflower oil
- For the garnish cook potatoes with skin in salted water and let them cool down completely (it is important because otherwise it will be mashy) Peel potatoes and grate them. Peel and chop onion.
- Remove stems of spinach and rinse properly. Prepare a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Boil water in a pot, add some salt, drop spinach leaves into it. Wait until they wilt, than remove them with a slotted spoon and dip immediately into ice-cold water in order to keep its fresh green colour. Leave it in a strainer then press spinach to get rid off excess water. Chop it and set aside.
- Let bread roll soak in a cup of milk for 10 minutes then press it through a pasta colander or grate it in order to get very small pieces. Strain milk that you used for soaking and add to the remaining milk. Peel and press garlic.
- To prepare a roux heat oil in a pot, add flour and fry it until it gets a really light brown colour. Add garlic, chopped spinach and bread roll. Sauté for a couple of minutes then pour over milk. Add salt according to your taste, and bring it to boil while stirring occasionally. Cook for further couple of minutes until the stew thickens. Remove the pot from the stove and use a blender to get a creamy consistency.
- To finish potato garnish add oil into a frying pan, sauté onion, add some salt then fold in grated potatoes carefully trying to not mash them.
Serve spinach with potato garnish and pörkölt.
*As it is cooling down, you may need some extra milk to make the stew thinner. Add some more, if necessary
**My mother only uses sunflower oil, but I use more often olive oil because it became my favourite while I lived in Spain for a few years