Notes from the kitchen | Ottolenghi’s spinach baked potatoes

Trust me to unearth those recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi (there are one or two) that require fewer than 15 ingredients and a mere handful of steps.

In London, certainly, Ottolenghi needs no introduction, but for those, elsewhere, who may be unfamiliar, he is an Isreali-born London-based chef, restaurant-owner, and ridiculously prolific recipe writer, with regular columns in The Guardian and The New York Times, and an head-spinning array of cookbooks. To unjustly reduce his influence and fame to a running joke, his dishes often include enormous ingredient lists, many of which are specialty items not typically found in mainstream supermarkets (though now, thanks to his success, ever more so). This satirical piece in The New Yorker is an oblique — so spot-on! — insight into his recipes.

I spotted one of the less complicated ideas in his book Simple (!!), written with Tara Wigley, skipped a step, took a short-cut, and though we ate much later than planned, it was worth it!

Spinach baked potatoes adapted from Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth

Serves 6 with leftovers

6 large baking potatoes
400g spinach (I used frozen leaf spinach but fresh would be even better)
50g butter
200g sour cream or crème fraîche
180g grated sharp cheese (Gruyère, cheddar, the original recipe suggests Gorgonzola in which case use a bit less…)
2 bunches spring onions (the recipe suggests walnuts for crunch, I preferred a sharper contrast)
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C (420°F).

Wash and lightly scrub the potatoes to remove any soil but without breaking the skin. Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper, stab the potatoes a few times with a fork, place on the parchment and into the oven for 1 hour or just over, until the potatoes are soft through when stabbed with a small knife.

Meanwhile, cook the spinach: —If using fresh spinach, wash the leaves thoroughly of any grit, remove the rough stalks, and cut into strips. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 to 3 cm (1 inch) of salted water to boil. Once boiling, add the spinach for just 20 to 30 seconds until wilted and strain in a colander, squeezing out as much water as possible. —If using frozen spinach leaves, place in a medium saucepan with one or two tablespoons of water over low heat until completely thawed and just warmed through — no more.

Wash and finely slice the spring onions.

Once cooked through, take the potatoes out of the oven and slice lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a medium bowl. Carefully set aside the potato skin shells. Roughly mash the potato flesh, mix in the butter, cream, and most of the cheese (keep a bit to sprinkle on top). Add the spinach, season carefully with salt, depending on the saltiness of the cheese, and a generous grind of black pepper. Mix well.

Scoop the mash back into the potato skins, place back onto the baking tray with parchment paper, sprinkle with spring onions and a bit of cheese.

Bake in the oven until browned on top, about 15 minutes.

***

This could be an entire meal, with just a winter salad of endive and radicchio. It can also be a luscious side for simply grilled salmon steaks.

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