I am quite surprised that I haven’t featured this recipe before but I checked my past posts, I checked my files: no, apparently not.
Why am I surprised? Well, for a start, it is one of my personal favourites let alone a very seasonal dish that you will find in all the esnaf lokantaları, the little local restaurants that primarily serve the neighbourhood shopkeepers, as well as being a dish that Turkish housewives frequently serve their families during the winter months.
This very simple, very classic all-in-one dish of spinach cooked with mince, onion and tomato is reminiscent of many others of its type known as tencere yemekleri or dishes served in a pan. You’ll have seen them around. Once you know the basics, you can make them all yourself!
Personally I love the timeless comforting flow from one season to the next, each with its predictable fruits and vegetables so you should be out there buying celeriac/kereviz, leeks/pırasa and of course spinach/ıspanak! Don’t be tempted by the eggplants, courgettes and green peppers! These are green-house grown in Antalya and not seasonal at all.
About two months ago I did a similar dish to this one with leeks and mince: maybe that was why I felt it was familiar? You see, the basis of this dish ie with the chopped onion and minced beef, can be used with a variety of vegetables and even chickpeas and potatoes : very simple, very economical, very tasty!
My only reservation about the spinach is the preparation: yes,it’s a real pain! Especially if you buy it from the pazar where it comes roots and all. Separate the roots and save them for a separate little dish with garlic, onion and tomatoes – you get really thrifty living here!
With the rest, make sure you wash it thoroughly in 3 changes of cold water before continuing with the recipe. Buying the big bags of spinach from say, Migros, does help as the roots have been removed and the leaves are that bit cleaner!
- Cut off the spinach roots. Wash and drain the spinach very well. Tear or chop it up but not too finely. Wash the rice and set aside.
- Sauté onion in butter or butter + olive oil until soft and golden. Add the mince and cook over low heat until meat has browned. Add the tomatoes, diluted tomato paste, salt and pepper and ½ cup water. Add the rice.
- Place the washed spinach leaves on top – tear them into smaller pieces if on the large side. There is no need to add extra water at this point because of the water clinging to the leaves after washing them. Push them down with a wooden spoon as they start to cook.
- When the pile of spinach is well and truly wilted, mix it into the meat and onion mixture which is below. If you need more hot water, you can add it but you don’t want it to be too wet.
- Continue cooking for about 35-40 mins until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Serve hot with plain yogurt on the side!
NB If you are serving this dish later, you may have to add a little more water to reheat as it’s surprising how much liquid gets absorbed.