Peasant Leek and Spinach Casserole

By • January 4, 2013 • 8 Comments



Author Notes: This was one of my favorite childhood dishes. My mom used to make it almost every week; it was wholesome, healthy and inexpensive. On Sundays, she served it with grilled chicken, on a weekday it was a dinner waiting for me at the end of a long day, and I would gobble it up with a slice of bread and a glass of kefir. (Not sure why, but for me kefir remains the ideal pairing for it.) I think that the dish was my mom’s creation; I scouted all her Serbian cookbooks but never managed to find anything like it. It has elements of several ancient peasant dishes and therefore the name. My mom never wrote the recipe, she never does, and it took me a couple of attempts to get the quantities right and recreate the childhood flavors. And of course, a jar of sweet Hungarian paprika!QueenSashy

Serves 6

  • 20 ounces leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 20 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Carefully wash the leaks. (I ended up with soiled food so many times, and therefore cannot help but repeat the mantra.) Quarter the leeks lengthwise, and then slice thinly crosswise.
  2. In a small pot, bring water to boil. Add the rice and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan combine the oil with the leeks and place over medium heat (you can heat the oil first, but starting the leeks in cold oil brings out a slightly different mellower flavor). Simmer the leeks for about 12 minutes, until very soft.
  4. Add the garlic and continue to simmer for another minute or two.
  5. Add the spinach, cover and continue to simmer until the spinach has wilted completely. (If needed add a drop of water.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 340F. Add the rice to the leeks and spinach and generously season with salt and pepper. You might want to be a bit more generous than usual, because: 1) this will be all the seasoning you are allowed, 2) the seasoning will enhance all the other flavors, and 3) you will be serving the dish at the room temperature. Add the Hungarian paprika, mix well and transfer into 9x13 inch casserole. (Any baking dish will do as long as the vegetable layer is quite thin, no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall.)
  7. Add about 2 cups of water to the casserole (you want the water barely covering the dish, and if needed you can always add more during baking.) Bake for about 45 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated, the rice is plump and the top of the casserole is nicely caramelized.
  8. Serve the dish at room temperature. (And do not forget the kefir!)
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Comments (8) Questions (0)

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over 1 year ago Duda

the dish goes very well with a few eggs on top, 10 minutes before you take it out of the oven!

Moi_1

over 1 year ago QueenSashy

It never occurred to me to try with eggs! Thank so much for sharing, will definitely give it a try.

Stringio

over 1 year ago Cynthia Grandjean

I'd like to make this with brown rice or barley in place of the white rice -- any recommended changes? Also, could it be made in a rice cooker? Looks tastey!

Moi_1

over 1 year ago QueenSashy

That's a wonderful idea, I think it might work even better than with white rice. I never tried it, so from the top of my head, I would probably cook the brown rice a little bit longer, perhaps for about 15-20min (instead of 5 for white rice) and then just proceed with the recipe. Please let me know how it turned out.

3-bizcard

over 1 year ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

QS, I was one of the testers for this recipe and loved it, here is my review:
I adore this casserole, QueenSashy created a dish that is equally good on it's own or as a side. I carefully followed the recipe instructions and honestly was a bit nervous pouring the water on the mixture, I was petrified I would have a soupy mess (i used approximately 1 1/2 cups of water), it was not, the leeks, spinach and rice plumped up beautifully and the finished dish was light and almost souffle like in texture. Following the directions just as QueenSashy writes them is important, generously seasoning enhances rather than detracts from the leeks and other vegetables. I used basmati rice and instead of par boiling for 5 minutes it only took 3 because the rice is so delicate and I served this with an Iranian drink made with kefir, mint and club soda and a simple salad. This was a satisfying and delicious meal I will most definittely be making again. Leftovers if you have any are fantastic also!!

Moi_1

over 1 year ago QueenSashy

Thank you for the lovely review!

3-bizcard

over 1 year ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

A great casserole and love how it can be a meal in in itself or a side. Totally agree that kefir would be the drink of choice.

Moi_1

over 1 year ago QueenSashy

Thank you! Actually, the dish is so wholesome and earthy that I never managed to pair it well with anything, except the simplest grilled chicken. If you end up making it, please let me know, I am curious to learn what others think.