TGIFOOD

THRIFTY COOKING

What’s cooking today: Spinach and feta lasagne

What’s cooking today: Spinach and feta lasagne
Tony Jackman’s spinach and feta lasagne. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Spinach and feta make a happy marriage, and along with a creamy béchamel sauce it’s a pairing that makes for a deeply satisfying lasagne.

The dark green leaves that South Africans call spinach are, more correctly, meant to be called Swiss chard. But that doesn’t mean that we’re wrong in calling it spinach. General usage of words has an effect on how they are termed. Americans use the Spanish cilantro for what we call coriander or koljander. Zucchini to an Italian is a courgette in France or a baby marrow in South Africa.

So let’s accept that, when South Africans refer to “spinach”, we’re almost invariably talking about Swiss chard. And that’s okay.

Lasagne, almost invariably, used to be a baked dish of lasagne sheets layered with savoury mince of one sort or another and béchamel sauce, topped with grated cheese. But the meaty layer can be substituted with a variety of vegetables, whether brinjals (eggplant), butternut, leeks, even beans.

But the patch of Fordhook giant spinach, or Swiss chard if you insist, in my little vegetable garden is rampant right now, so I picked a load of the largest leaves and gave them a good wash in the sink.

This would also need onion and garlic, nutmeg and bay. Six standard lasagne sheets would be required for two layers of three, with spinach and feta alternating with béchamel in between. And there’d be Parmesan sprinkled on top.

(Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients

Spinach, enough to fill a big pot once shredded

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, bashed and chopped

2 Tbsp butter for the onion

Nutmeg, a few grindings

6 lasagne sheets

2 rounds of feta

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

For the béchamel:

1 litre full cream milk

2 heaped Tbsp flour

2 heaped Tbsp butter

2 bay leaves

Method

Wash the spinach leaves well in cold water. Drain. On a board, cut away the central spines, which in this variety of spinach are white. Discard them: they’re bitter and spoil the flavour of the cooked spinach if left in.

Shred the green parts finely and put it all in a deep pot. It’s likely to fill the pot to the brim but once wilted will be a fraction of its quantity. Put it on the heat and move the contents around with a wooden spoon while the water escapes from the leaves and cooks away.

Add grated nutmeg and half of the chopped garlic, and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Cook until the water has been released and has evaporated.

Simmer the onion and remaining garlic in butter, stirring, until softened. Add this to the cooked spinach and stir.

Bring a litre of milk just to a boil with the two bay leaves in it, and immediately turn off the heat. Remove the bay.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large enough pot (1 litre-plus) and, off the heat, thoroughly stir in the flour.

On a modest heat, while stirring continuously, add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring until combined and smooth. 

Grease a deep oven dish with butter.

Add one layer of béchamel (a third of it).

Over this, add half of the spinach/onion.

Scatter 1 crumbled or chopped round of feta over. 

Add three lasagne sheets.

Add a second layer of béchamel, then a second layer of spinach, then the remaining feta.

Add the second layer of lasagne sheets and top with the remaining béchamel.

Sprinkle Parmesan over.

Bake in a 220℃ oven for about 40 minutes. 

Serve with a crisp salad.

It’s best to leave the dish to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into portions, as it holds itself together better. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

Gallery

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