This dish comes from Écija, a beautiful city in the province of Seville. The recipe comes from my in-laws. My grandfather in-law was living in Écija for a few years. Each Christmas, the nuns of a convent used to give him as a present a pot with espinacas labradas. He loved the dish and before they moved to Seville, my grandmother in-law got the recipe directly from the nuns. Then it passed to my mother in-law, and finally she gave it to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
'Espinacas labradas' means carved spinach; the dish gets its name from the lines traditionally drawn on the top of the dish. It is said to be a reference to the lines that a tractor makes in a field. This has a wonderful flavour, and also a great texture - the softness of spinach with the crunchiness of bread is amazing.
- 500 g frozen spinach
- 8 garlic cloves
- I small loaf of day-old crusty white bread
- 250 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
- 1 tsp Sherry vinegar (or strong red wine vinegar)
- 3 black pepper corns, ground
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
This dish will be better the following day, so prepare it in advance if you can.
1. In a pan boil the spinach until tender. Strain thoroughly. Reserve.
2. Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves but do not crush them. Cut the bread into slices, remove the crusts and then cut the bread into triangle shapes – you want 3-4 pieces per person (about 12-16 triangles in total).
3. Place the oil on a terracotta pot (or a frying pan) and heat to medium temperature. Add the peeled garlic cloves and fry them, at medium temperature, until they become tender and golden. Set aside on a plate. In the same oil fry the bread, turning, until it becomes golden brown. Set aside on a plate. In the same oil fry the chopped onion until it becomes tender and slightly golden. Reserve.
4. Turn off the burner and let the oil cold down. Then add the cumin and paprika and cook them at a low temperature a little. (Don´t burnt the paprika because the dish will be bitter).
5. With a food processor or a hand blender, blend the spinach with the onion, 3 or 4 fried garlic cloves and the oil with the spices. Add the vinegar, the ground pepper and salt to taste. Blend all until you get a really thick cream (a pudding-like consistency).
6. Place the espinacas labradas back into the terracotta pot, or in a serving dish, and carve lines in the surface with a fork. Place the remaining fried garlic cloves topping the dish.
7. Serve the fried bread in a plate alongside.
Ana López Marín runs the Fresh Cooking Spain cooking school in Seville and also teaches virtual cooking classes through The Chef & The Dish. She made this dish when Ainsley Harriott visited her in Spain for Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook.