Relocating to live in the UK posed some challenges in particular with finding and using the types of food ingredients that I was already used to and loved. Some of such ingredients are the green leafy vegetables.
|Broad Leaf Spinach|
(pic credit: flickr)
Back home, there is a wide variety of green leafy vegetables used to make delicious dishes, especially soups. These vegetables vary from one locality to another. There are literally hundreds of them so you can imagine my shock when I came to the UK, to discover that there is only one type of leafy vegetable that I can use to make my traditional Nigerian soups....the broad leaf spinach!!!
The common spinach (spinacia oleracea) popular in the UK is actually of the same family amaranthaceae as the Nigerian popular leafy vegetable known as soko....also called spinach, so it was relatively easy to process and use it without any more shock/surprise in the taste department!
Spinach, as we know it in the UK is sold fresh in local markets, in bunches or frozen. The broad leaf spinach is quite suited for Nigerian style stews/soups because it can withstand the somewhat long cooking process. Young shoots of spinach (baby spinach) are also sold in supermarkets but more used in salads or eaten raw.
Spinach is said to be really nutritionally good for the body and going by the popular cartoon character popeye, spinach gives your strength! This is wholly true as it is very high in iron and really rich in vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional Profile (calorie content per 100g of raw spinach leaves)
Spinach is really rich in vitamins, minerals antioxidants and dietary fibre. Also contains some
Calories - 23 kcal
Carbohydrates - 3.6 g
Protein - 2.9g
Fat - 0.4g
Dietary fibre - 2.2 g
Vitamins: A, C, E, K B2, B6
Minerals: magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, selenium
To retain much of their nutritional value, the best way to cook spinach leaves is to steam them or boil them quickly from fresh. Microwaving them is thought to also help preserve/retain nutrients. They can be used in soups/stews by adding at the very last stage of cooking. Spinach can also be blanched in hot boiling water but ensure the this lasts for no longer than 2 minutes. Follow immediately by pouring with very cold water. I personally find that blanching helps to keep the vibrant rich green colour of the vegetable. Over cooking the spinach leaves make them turn dirty brown....not an appealing or desirable colour. Also overcooking leads to loss of nutrients.
Try some of my favourite spinach recipes: