After months of almost ignoring the garden it is now demanding our attention. The grass is galloping away and the tunnels are bursting with spinach and chard. This is the spinach and chard that we grew last year, which spent the winter just lolling around in the tunnel – almost in animated suspension – it slowly kicked back into life in February and now it’s the end of March and we are picking it by the bucket load. It always makes a valiant last-ditch effort before bolting and going to seed.
The next generation of spinach and chard are already nearly two centimeters tall and almost ready to join the queue for transplanting.
Suddenly there’s so much to do, which is okay, as we’re refreshed and enthusiastic after the break, she says bravely.
The chickens have also swung back into action and even though some of them are seriously geriatric, we’re enjoying plenty of eggs.
Spinach and eggs are almost synonymous with Easter in our house and they must be in other parts of the world too because there are plenty of spinach and egg pies out there that pop up specifically for Easter.
I fiddled around with a pie idea but rejected it because it’s a recipe best shown – pastry can be tricky – instead this months’ recipe is a Shakshuka, which is a North African spicy tomato and egg dish.
This one pot wonder, which is eaten all over the Middle East in various guises, is a very accommodating recipe. I’ve stirred spinach into mine but it’s also good with feta or ricotta crumbled on top or maybe some olives or butterbeans stirred in. Either way you can tailor-make the dish to suit yourself and your family and it would make an excellent Easter brunch, lunch or light dinner. The spicing is up to you, if you don’t like spicy you can tone it down. I couldn’t resist stirring a spoonful of harissa paste into mine. One thing that is standard is some crusty bread served on the side to mop up.
2 onions, peeled and sliced
3 tbs olive oil
1tsp cumin seeds
1 pepper – red, green or yellow, deseeded and diced
3-4 cloves garlic – peeld and roughly chopped
1tsp sweet paprika
1 chilli or 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 can tomatoes
1 tsp harissa paste – optional
a big handful of baby spinach or chopped spinach leaves
chopped parsley or coriander to serve
Put a medium sized skillet or frying pan on a medium heat. Add the olive oil and the cumin seeds and cook gently for a minute, then stir in the sliced onions. Cook on a medium heat until the onions begin to soften then add the diced peppers. Season with a little salt, this will help to soften the vegetables. Cook without browning for ten minutes then add the garlic. Cook for two minutes more – don’t burn the garlic – then stir in the tomatoes, water and sweet paprika. Bring everything to the boil then turn to a gentle simmer. Cook for at least 15 minutes, longer if you have the time, as the sauce will become smoother and sweeter. Season with salt and pepper. At this stage you could put the sauce aside until later and reheat when you want to proceed.
To finish the dish stir in the spinach and cook for a minute so that it wilts down then make four indentations with a spoon and crack an egg into each. Cover the pan with a lid and leave on a gentle simmer for roughly eight to ten minutes until the eggs are set. I like to eat the eggs with runny yolks but if your prefer eggs with set yolks cook a little longer.
Take the pan to the table and serve with freshly chopped herbs on top and bread on the side.
Lettercollum Kitchen Project
22 Connolly Street