Spanakorizo, or spinach rice, is super healthy, very moreish and a hearty winter dish. It can be served as a main or side dish, and is ready in under 40 minutes. It is similar to a risotto (but with more greens than rice), spanakorizo can be accompanied by some feta cheese, a big dollop of sheep yoghurt or even a grating of aged mizyithra or kefelograveria cheese. If you are in need of extra "comfort" you can also enjoy it with a few slices of rustic home-style bread for a full meal. It also benefits from a healthy drizzling of olive oil over the top just before serving.
As a primary schooler, Mr K can remember a big bowl of spanakorizio often being placed before him after a day at school. I can see why. This is a relatively inexpensive dish, especially if you have an excellent crop of spinach growing in your garden. It has beautiful fresh flavors of lemon and dill - and there is little preparation involved.
The one bit of preparation that is absolutely essential though is washing the spinach properly. There is nothing worse than getting a big gritty mouthful. Traditionally, Greek Carolina rice would be used for this dish. It is very similar to Arborio rice, which I have used in this recipe. You can also use long grain rice and the dish will turn out just as well. I recently found some Carolina rice at my favourite Greek food shop, Earlwood Wines.
While Mr K's memories of spanakorizo are at the family table after school, my own memories of the dish are connected with Greece itself. On a trip to Greece a few years ago, Mr K and I had ventured on a precarious but absolutely breathtaking drive on the cliff edges (literally, on the precipice) of the Mani. On the drive back to our base at Mavrovouni Beach near Gythio, we stopped in a beautiful little village, which time had forgotten.
At the village, we arrived just at the same time as the smiling vegetable seller, his open tray truck piled high with the best of the season, including healthy bright yellow thick skinned lemons, bouquets of dill, spring onions as thick as leeks and huge bright green bunches of spinach and other leafy greens. We purchased a huge basket full of these delights.
When making spanakorizo, I like to use a mix of greens, usually a big bunch of spinach or sliver beet, some English spinach and some beetroot leaves. You can experiment with different varieties and you can also use a variety of herbs. In winter, I prefer to use dill or fennel fronds and in spring and summer, I like to use fresh mint, or sometimes a combination of both dill and mint.
Back at our beach side apartment, I coaxed our tiny little induction stove into turning an enormous amount of spinach and greens into a tasty spanakorizo. Overlooking the beach as the sunset, we enjoyed our little bowls of green, lemony goodness with glasses of soft dusky pink local rose, little wedges of salty, plump red tomatoes, creamy oil cheese 'ladotiri' and tiny little green olives that had been marinating, since picked, in a mixture of bay leaves, rigani - and more lemon!! Taking in the view, I had to drag out my sketch book and capture this little moment.
Mavrovouni Beach was a very beautiful part of the world. When the beach was deserted in the early morning, with the morning light sparkling on the water like a sheet of glass, you really could be forgiven for thinking an Ancient Greek god might descend from the hills around the beach - or up from the sea. Whenever I make spanakorizo I think of these moments of calm and contentedness.
1 bunch of spinach, roughly chopped
1 bunch of beetroot leaves (or other interesting Greens), roughly chopped
1 bunch of shallots, sliced
1 leek, sliced into rounds or chopped
½ cup olive oil
1-1/2 cups carolina or aborio rice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dill or mint, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or water
salt and pepper
1. Wash spinach. Remove stems (or if using English spinach - just throw them in), drain leaves well and tear into pieces.
2. In a heavy based pan gently fry onion and leek in oil until soft. Add the spinach or other greens and allow to wilt.
3. Add the rice and remaining ingredients.
4. Cover and cook gently for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked to your preference.
6. Remove from heat, covered the pot tightly with a tea towel and place the lid on top. Allow to stand for 5-15 minutes, before serving with feta or yoghurt, a squeeze and lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and olives on the side.