Call me crazy, but even as a kid I loved spinach (bhaji) in all forms and to this day I still can’t figure out why ALL kids don’t love the stuff. Over the years (out of convenience and availability) spinach took the place of my beloved dasheen bush leaves and what some people call Jamaican Callaloo (we call chorai) can always be found in our vegetable garden during the summer months. Cooked with or without coconut milk, spiced up with hot peppers and enhanced with leftover stewed meats, spinach is something I can have on the regular.
Here’s a quick and tasty way to serve/enjoy spinach with a Caribbean twist.
1lb Baby spinach
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 medium onion
1/2 cup salted cod bits
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper
1 scallion (green or spring onion)
Note: You can make this dish fully vegetarian by leaving out the bits of salted cod. But be sure to add salt and for more flavor, add a 1/2 cup of coconut milk during the cooking process.
Though the package said the spinach was washed, I still like washing it as there have been times when I did find some sand between the leaves. Try your best to get baby spinach as it’s much more tender and not as ‘bitter” as mature (dark green) leaves. After washing, set in a colander to dry. Take a closer look and remove all wilted (discolored) leaves from the bunch as well.
Chop the garlic, onion, scallion, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper… remember to not include any seeds from the scotch bonnet pepper as that’s where the majority of heat dwell. Additionally, be sure to wear gloves if your hands are sensitive and be sure to wash your hands with soap and water.
Make little bundles with the spinach leaves and cut into shreds about 1/4 inch thick.
Prepare the salted cod (I used boneless for easier work). All you have to do is place the salted cod in a pot with water, bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Then discard the water, rinse with new water and allow to cool. Then shred into bits. here’s a video showing how it’s done…
Heat a saucepan on low heat, add the vegetable oil… then the salted cod bits (you can use any dried salted fish). Allow this to cook for about 5 minutes.. it will start to go brown on the edges and stick to the bottom of the pan. Scrape and move around. The idea is to build a base of flavor for the spinach. Next up we’ll add the sliced onion, scallion, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper and garlic. Make sure the heat is on low, as we want these items to sweat down and further infuse the dish with flavor. The last thing we want is burnt garlic and onions.
After 4-5 minutes, turn up the heat to medium, add the black pepper and the chopped spinach to the pot. It will pile up, but as soon as the heat gets going it will wilt down.
As it cooks, it will sprout a lot of it’s own liquid and go from that brilliant green colour to a more darker shade. Place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the lid (remember to stir every 5 minutes as it cooks), turn up the heat to burn off any excess liquid which may still be there and add the chopped tomato to give it some colour. taste for salt. Note that we didn’t put any salt in the dish as in most cases the residual salt from the salted cod bits will be enough to season the entire dish. But since your tolerance for salt is different that mine.. check and adjust accordingly.
If you’ve never used salted cod (salt fish) you’ll probably think this is a bit weird, but I assure you that the flavor will be amazing. My favourite way of having this (other than with flour /cassava dumplings) is with sada roti. Remember you can make this a full vegetarian dish as long as you follow the tip I left in the “Note” above.
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There are two bonus ways you can have your name entered in the contest, giving you 3 chances at winning. Along with leaving a comment below, go to the Facebook fan page and/or the Youtube cooking channel and leave a comment there. I don’t care what your comment is, but it would be nice if you could tell me what you like about your favorite item is to grill.
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