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Dave Verheul's grilled English spinach with green olive and oregano

Dave Verheul's grilled English spinach with green olive and oregano

Prep time 15 mins

Cook 2 mins, plus pre-heating the embers

Serves 4


"Spinach is one of the best examples of a food that has had its original appeal commodified right out of it," says chef Dave Verheul of Melbourne's Embla restaurant. "It’s become a tasteless green filler. But proper outdoor-grown English spinach has so much flavour and texture. This is one of my favourite dishes because it takes something so underrated, and by adding a few high notes, shows how flavourful and satisfying it can be." From the book, On Sundays, Long Lunches Through the Seasons.

Green olive and oregano pesto

75 g (2¾ oz) green olives, pitted and roughly chopped

20 g (¾ oz) cornichons, roughly chopped

3 g (¹⁄₁₀ oz) capers, roughly chopped

10 g (¼ oz) parmesan, grated

½ shallot, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

20 g (¾ oz) fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped

10 g (¼ oz) parsley leaves, roughly chopped

75 g (2¾ oz) olive oil

10 g (¼ oz) lemon juice

To finish

300 g (10½ oz) English spinach, leaves only

Vegetable oil

For green olive and oregano pesto, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl and mix well. Pour in the olive oil, give it a good mix and season to taste with salt, black pepper and lemon juice.

To finish, light a medium-sized fire and let it burn down to a point where it isn’t all yellow flames and has a good bed of hot coals, around 45 minutes. Fill a sink with cold water and wash the spinach gently but thoroughly, then drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove any excess water. Working in two batches, place half the spinach into a suitably sized plastic container, then liberally pour in some veg’ oil, season well with salt and close the lid. Place a grill tamis sieve onto the fire and give the container a solid shake. This will completely coat each leaf with oil. If you try to grill an un-oiled green leaf it will end up tasting like petrol. Tip the spinach into the tamis sieve and grill over a high heat until softened down, around 30–45 seconds. Make sure you constantly stir the leaves so that they cook evenly and don’t scorch. Scoop the olive pesto onto two serving plates and arrange the grilled spinach on top.



NOTE This rcipe requires cooking over a wood fire. If you don't have access to one, you can use a chargrill pan instead to cook the spinach.

This is an edited extract from On Sundays by Dave Verheul, published by Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally. Photography © Kristoffer Paulsen 2024

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