Babú’s standard birthday meal is Hungarian spinach (spenótfőzelék) and pork meatballs (fasírt). I haven’t ever been particularly keen on the latter, which can be quite heavy, but the spinach part has evolved into one of our staples, eaten with roast chicken or baked potatoes or lamb kofta. I’m not claiming my version is authentic but the basic principle of cooking vegetables in a thick, garlicky roux is typical of many Hungarian vegetable recipes.
Serves 4 generously or 6 as a side dish
2 bags (approx 500g) spinach
1 heaped tbsp flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & pepper
Wash the spinach in cold water, then transfer in handfuls to a large pan, shaking the water off as you go. Cook, covered, until all the spinach has wilted. Drain in a colander.
When the spinach has cooled a bit, squeeze out the excess water (press down on it with a potato masher rather than risking a snapped wooden spoon), then chop finely.
In a small pan make a thick roux: melt the butter, then turn up the heat and add the flour and the crushed garlic. Whisk until the mixture becomes paler (do not allow to brown), then add the milk. Whisk vigorously – it will quickly get very thick.
Stir in the chopped spinach, add salt & pepper, turn heat to low, cover and leave the mixture to simmer slowly for about 10 minutes (to ensure that the flour is cooked). It is liable to stick, so make sure you stir it occasionally. It will loosen as more water is released from the spinach. If it still seems too thick you can add more milk or even some cream.