Monday, August 20, 2007

Rice, Spinach and Cheese Loaf

As I am catering only for myself this week I wanted something tasty for my lunch box but, as I was humping all the shopping home on the bus I wanted it to not weigh an awful lot. Which kind of ruled out a Sunday roast - a shoulder of lamb or rolled leg of pork tends to be heavy. I already had an unopened box of vialone nano rice in the cupboard and there was cheese in the fridge that wouldn't last another week so I thought I'd make a sort of rice loaf with all the cheese grated into it. That way I had no great weight to carry and I got to be frugal.
Rice is not a richly flavoured grain in itself but it is a generous host to others, infusing easily with aromatics. There's lots of herbs in the garden at the moment and they are always a good place to go when a dish needs some subtle interest. I also fried some onions and garlic in a little olive oil till just golden to add a soft sweetness. On Saturday Tony had a mountain of deep green spinach and that was my final ingredient - it might fill a standard carrier bag but half a kilo of spinach is definitely light.

As it is all about me this week I didn't much want to make a mountain of washing up - usually I make a mess and the man washes up - which certainly works for me! When he's not there I try as far as possible to follow the one pan principle which simply requires a bit of logic applied before you start to cook and you will make the smallest amount of dirty things possible.

Rice, Spinach and Cheese Loaf
250g/1/2 lb vialone nano or arborio rice
500g/1lb fresh spinach, preferably not baby leaves, washed and large stalks removed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbspn olive oil
3 or 4 tbspns chopped fresh herbs - basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley - choose a selection you like
1/2 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated cheese, something at least a little sharp works best
3 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Choose a lidded pan that is large enough to cook the spinach. Wash the rice then cook in boiling salted water till just al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse in cold water. Rinse the pan out then put it back on a high heat. Add a little olive oil and when it is hot toss in the spinach with just the water that clings to the leaves from washing it. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and allow to wilt.

Put the cooked rice into a large bowl. Drain the spinach into the colander. Rinse out the pan and add some more oil. Return it to the heat and add the chopped onions and garlic. Fry gently till tinged with gold. Chop the drained spinach roughly then add it to the rice. Add the finely chopped herbs, grated nutmeg, grated cheese and the fried onion and garlic. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly - use your hands if you like, it is quite a pleasurable sensation and it is probably the most effective way to achieve an even distribution. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as reqired.

Oil a loaf tin then pack the rice mixture in. Cook for half an hour in a hot oven, gas 6, till the loaf is cooked and flecked with colour. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before turning it out onto a plate.

The mix of herbs and cheese are not hard and fast - what you have or what you fancy.

This made a delicious supper with just a rocket and tomato salad dressed with basil oil and is perfect sliced into my lunch box with roasted butternut and salad. I really am treating myself but it would be good to share - perfect fare for a picnic.

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