The Turks love their yogurt and it is virtually unthinkable of consuming spinach dishes without this calcium-rich side. But for years there has been a myth floating about that spinach should not be consumed with yogurt because it hinders the absorption of calcium. But as the title suggests, it is just a myth! Spinach, besides being high in calcium, also contains a high level of oxalic acid, and as these two bind to each other, the body cannot process the calcium it provides. So, pairing spinach with another high-calcium food such as yogurt actually helps the body absorb more of the mineral. However, yogurt may inhibit the absorption of iron, hence why Turks try to cook spinach with tomatoes, which is full of vitamin C, a known iron facilitator.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in on how to prep this green delight.
A truly Turkish classic is börek (a type of layered savory pastry) with spinach. And what better way is there to fill an empty stomach than with some creamy spinach börek rich in vitamin K and magnesium, helping you to relieve headaches, fatigue and even stress.
- 5 pieces of yufka (phyllo pastry)
- 3 eggs
- 200 mililiters yogurt
- 50 mililiters olive oil + some for roasting
- 50 mililiters water
- 500 grams spinach
- 1 onion
- salt, pepper
- cumin seeds and/or sesame seeds (optional)
Start by getting the filling ready and chop the onions finely, sauteeing them with a bit of olive oil. Once they have softened, add the thoroughly-washed spinach which you have plucked or torn into smaller pieces into the sauteed onions. Add seasoning, and cook until the spinach releases its fluids. Then turn the heat off and let the filling cool off for a bit.
To create the creamy sauce for your börek, you’ll need to mix two of the eggs with the yogurt, olive oil and water. Whisk them together until you have a smooth mixture.
Lay the first piece of yufka into a deepish tray or baking tin of your choice, making sure there is leftover yufka to hang over the edges. These edges are necessary to fold over later on. Spread one or two tablespoonsful of the sauce on the bottom layer of the yufka and add the second layer of yufka on top, this time trying to make it fit into the tin. You can cut it or fold it in, it does not matter. Once again, spread a layer of the sauce and now add a good amount of the spinach filling as well. Close this layer with another sheet of yufka, and repeat this step once more. Put the final layer of yufka on top and fold the other flaps towards the top of the börek. Spread the rest of the sauce on top if you have some left before folding in the edges. You can cut the börek now into your desired portions before cooking to make the sectioning off easier or you can wait until after it is cooked.
Whisk the remaining egg and spread it over the very top layer of the börek. If you so desire and want some extra flavor, you can sprinkle some cumin and sesame seeds onto the top.
Bake the börek at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes or until it has turned a golden brown color. Let it cool off for a bit before you dig in, and enjoy!
Spinach and strawberry salad
With spring knocking on our door, it is a nice way to welcome warmer weather with a fresh and nutritious little salad. While we know that many fruits have vitamin C in them, it is not as widely known that spinach is just as rich in the vitamin, which can also be a great kick starter for your immune system in these trying times.
- 300 grams spinach
- 500 grams strawberries
- 1 small onion, preferably mild or red
- 50 mililiters vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt, pepper
- feta cheese, nuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
Thoroughly wash your spinach and let it drip and dry. Cut your spinach into ribbons or simply pluck them into smaller pieces. Remove the stems of the strawberries and depending on their size, quarter them or cut them even smaller. Cut the onion in half and slice it very finely. If you do not like the taste of onion, you can skip this step. Put them all into a bowl and pour vinegar and olive oil over it. Season with salt and pepper. If you want to level up your salad, you can crumble up a bit of feta cheese on top or add in a handful of roasted nuts (walnuts and pecans work great but hazelnuts are delicious too). You can also use slivered almonds or an assortment of crushed nuts, which make a great addition of flavor and texture.
Turkish-style spinach stew
Every Turkish family does this homemade spinach dish a bit differently – some add meat, some add rice to the mix or even a few eggs – but either way, spinach’s doping-like qualities pair great with some minced meat and then it is cooked to perfection. Here’s a simple way to use some leftover minced meat and spinach.
- 500 grams spinach
- 250 grams minced beef/lamb or a mix
- 1-2 onions
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 100 mililiters water
- salt and pepper
- some vegetable oil
Cut the onions into small cubes and mince your garlic. Saute them in a bit of vegetable oil until the onion softens and add in the meat. Once the meat has turned brown and is no longer raw, add the tomato paste, give it a good stir and add in the spinach which you have cut into smaller pieces. Occasionally stir it so that the spinach loses its volume and season to your liking. Finally, add the water and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
If you like to add rice (half a Turkish tea glass or 2-3 tablespoons is a good measure) you should calculate the amount of water accordingly. The best way to measure it is by volume, meaning: one tablespoon of rice should get two tablespoons of water. If you want to wing it, it likely will turn out fine as well. You can always add more boiling water when cooking if you feel the rice won’t be cooked enough.
Eating this dish without yogurt is a crime! The two work together famously.
Just when you thought you got used to the idea of a spinach smoothie, now people are talking of cakes. And surprisingly, this vegetable makes for a great and not-overpowering ingredient in a sweet cake. You can actually add cooked spinach to any cake and use it as a green, all-natural colorant but don’t worry, it won’t taste savory! This could be especially fun for Halloween.
- 3 eggs
- 300 grams sugar
- 150 mililiters milk
- 150 mililiters vegetable oil
- 20-30 leaves of spinach, cooked
- 10 grams baking powder
- 350 grams flour
Cook the spinach in a bit of water and run it through a blender. Let it cool off. Whisk the eggs with sugar until it turns light and fluffy. Mix the baking powder into the flour. Add the vanilla to the eggs and gradually add in the flour mix, followed by the fluids (milk and oil) into the egg mixture while continuously stirring. Finally, add the spinach and mix it until it is completely incorporated. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20-30 minutes depending on the depth of your dish. Test with a toothpick if it has baked through to be safe.
Like with any vanilla cake you can top this one with a variety of icings or fillings, such as whipped cream.
These make great muffins as well, perfect for some afternoon tea.