Make Ahead

Peasant Leek and Spinach Casserole

January  4, 2013
0 Ratings
Photo by QueenSashy
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6-8
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

What You'll Need
  • 20 ounces leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 20 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup white short-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 3-4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Carefully wash the leaks. Pay attention to remove the soils that always sneaks in in between the layers. 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. 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 to an hour, 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!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nick Campbell
    Nick Campbell
  • Duda
  • Cynthia Grandjean
    Cynthia Grandjean
  • QueenSashy
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

7 Reviews

Nick C. February 27, 2017
Odakle je ovaj recept, ja nikad nijesam naslo nesto ovako? Jeli ovo nesto iz juzne Srbije?
QueenSashy February 28, 2017
Hi Nick -- pravo da ti kazem ne znam. Ali moja mama ga je pravila jednom nedeljno.
Magdalen February 19, 2015
I added a little chopped preserved lemon to this - gave a really interesting extra flavor accent.
Duda January 27, 2013
the dish goes very well with a few eggs on top, 10 minutes before you take it out of the oven!
QueenSashy January 27, 2013
It never occurred to me to try with eggs! Thank so much for sharing, will definitely give it a try.
Cynthia G. January 24, 2013
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!
QueenSashy January 27, 2013
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.