This dish is adapted from a Ruth Rogers-River Cafe recipe. River Cafe is one of my long-time favorite London restaurants located in Fulham right on the Thames and is a particularly nice setting for lunch or for eating outside on a summer’s evening.
Being an ardent porcini lover – you can read about that here – I’m always looking for ways to incorporate them into other vegetable dishes. This is absolutely delicious and rather luxurious, with the almost meaty earthiness of the porcini combining beautifully with baby spinach in a soft, cheesy, quiche-like custard.
In fact it’s so good, it would make a wonderful vegetarian entree. For meat eaters, it would be perfect served with roast lamb.
If you don’t forage for your own, dried porcini are available in small packets from most good supermarkets. A little goes a long way, which is a good thing as they’re rather expensive. Any you don’t use will keep for ages in an airtight glass container.
SPINACH BAKED WITH PORCINI & PARMESAN
(Serves 6 as a side dish)
Two 5 oz (141g) containers of ready-washed,organic baby spinach
3/4 – 1 oz (20-28g) of dried porcini mushrooms, just covered with very hot water and soaked for 20 minutes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 large eggs
7 fl oz (200ml) of heavy cream
1 and 1/2 oz (30g) of freshly grated Parmiginao Reggiano – plus an extra couple of tablespoons to sprinkle on top
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and butter a 2 inch (5 cm) deep ovenproof gratin dish.
Strain the soaked mushrooms through a paper towel squeezing them out well to capture all of the soaking liquid, as you’ll be using it. Briefly rinse the soaked porcini under warm running water to remove any residual woodland debris and chop them finely – set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a wide saute pan and wilt the spinach, stirring for a few minutes then transfer the spinach to a bowl. Add a little more oil and soften the garlic for a few minutes then add the chopped porcini. Saute, stirring for a couple more minutes, then tip in the strained porcini soaking liquid and bring the heat up until most of it bubbles away – about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, cream and grated Parmesan. Add freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste, followed by the wilted spinach and finally the porcini-garlic mixture. Stir thoroughly to combine and transfer to the buttered dish.
Sprinkle one or two tablespoons of grated Parmesan on top then bake for 25-30 minutes or until it’s puffy and golden.
Serve right away.