Hungarian creamed spinach with garlic
Serves 6 as a side dish
Recipe from Agi Adler
There's a reason why this is a Hungarian classic. It's indescribably delicious. There is something both satisfying and comforting about this rich green garlicky mass. It slips down easily, and leaves you wanting more. There was a famous Hungarian cafe at Bondi in Sydney that used to make vats of this spinach, it was their most popular "side". Theirs was good, but Agi's is better.
Agi is not even sure who taught her how to make it.
Her mother didn't as she had died by the time Agi was 14. It was during World War Two, late in 1944, and Agi's mother was on the last transport of Jews the Nazis took prisoner and moved out of Budapest. A transport usually meant to a death camp, a one way ticket from which only a very very few returned. But the Nazis were losing the war by that stage and barely had the capacity to move the Jews they took captive. There were no trains available, so the last groups of Jewish civilians were marched out of Budapest on foot. That's what happened to Agi's mother. She and the people with her walked east for days, covering some 300 km. The last Agi knows is that her mother was taken on a barge on the Danube river. After that all trace of her is lost, and she never returned.
At the end of the war, Agi was an orphan. She sailed into Sydney as a refugee on a ship called the Cyrenia in 1950, aged 20. She started a new life in Australia, where she also taught herself to recreate the rich cuisine of Budapest, the city where she grew up. These are the dishes she cooks for her daughters and her grandchildren.
- 500 g / 1 lb fresh spinach (Agi's supermarket sells bags this size with pre-washed leaves)
- 3 slices white bread, soaked in water – then squeezed
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup plain flour. Agi uses something called Continental flour, which from the ingredients appears to be plain flour mixed with semolina. She believes it makes a difference. "This flour is manufactured here by someone who was with me on the boat to Australia," she says after examining the packet.
- salt and pepper
1. Make a roux. Fry the garlic in the oil, quickly, for 20 seconds or so. Add the flour "just before the garlic browns." Stir. Watch the consistency. You want it thick, thicker than you may need it for some other dishes. When it's ready, set aside.
2. Wilt the spinach in a pan with only a little
water on the bottom. The spinach will make its own liquid.
3. Put the spinach into the food processor with bread from which all water has been squeezed. (It is important to do this step properly, or you risk creating spinach glue!) The spinach has to be hot when you add the roux. When the bread, the roux and the spinach are well mixed, add the 3 eggs and salt and pepper. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.