One French Word: épinards, a recipe for Spicy Indian potatoes and spinach
You either love or hate spinach. Most children won’t even come to table if there is spinach on the menu, but it’s a favourite vegetable of one of my little grandsons. Baby spinach leaves are preferable to larger, more mature ones, but the latter have more flavour. In India, spinach is used in an enormous number of recipes. Just wilted, it keeps its colour and a lot of its nutrients. I add a handful to all sorts of things – last night I had baked eggs with spinach, the day before the recipe I am about to share. I eat baby leaves in salad, wilted by pouring crispy bacon bits and their fat over them.
The French language bit:
épinards (masculine plural noun) (theoretically it has a singular but this is never used) = spinach (never pronounce the ‘s’ at the end of the word).
We saw last year that the circumflex (^^) often denotes a missing s in English, that is, if you put an ‘s’ in the place of the circumflex, you will sometimes be able to guess what the word means. It is often the same with an initial é. Replace it with an s and you will have, sometimes exactly, sometimes near enough, the English word. So épinards = spinach; épice = spice, I can’t think of any more right now.
Just one expression with épinards – mettre du beurre dans les épinards = to ameliorate something, to allow a little luxury (literally to add butter to your spinach), for instance a second salary will make everything easier = un deuxième salaire mettra du beurre dans les épinards.
And so to the recipe.
Ingredients for 1 person as a main meal, 2 people as a vegetable dish accompanying meat :
- 1 very large potato
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 4tbs corn or peanut oil
- 1 piece of fresh ginger, about 2cm square, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely sliced (the slices going from top to bottom and not across)
- 1 smoked cardamom (they are large and black), opened up, the seeds only to be used (if you can’t find this, try green ones, or leave it out altogether)
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- 1tsp ground coriander
- 1 tbs turmeric (curcuma)
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1tbs mustard seed
- a little salt
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- Cut the washed potato into 6 pieces (you do not need to peel it), place in cold salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15mns.
- Wash and drain the spinach (you don’t need to pat it dry, just get rid of as much water as possible)
- Drain the potatoes and cut into smaller pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the spices and the garlic, the ginger and the shallot to the hot oil and fry for a minute or two, stirring.
- Add the potatoes to the pan and stir to coat with the spices. Don’t be gentle with the potato, it is better if it crumbles a bit, it will go crispier later. Fry for 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring and turning the potato pieces so that they brown on all sides. It doesn’t matter if the shallot colours and crisps up.
- When the potato is quite browned, add the spinach to the pan, stir to wilt thoroughly, salt with great parcimony, as the spices have probably given enough flavour. You can always salt later if you find there is not enough.
- Sprinkle with a tsp of nigella seeds before bringing to the table.
This is an excellent vegetarian dish, very satisfying. But if you feel you need meat, it can accompany any meat dish. Of course I cannot pretend to have invented this, but let us just say that I used no recipe to concoct it! I just pulled spices out of the cupboard and thought very hard of a dish I tasted in India.