Origin: I adapted this from an Epicurious recipe posted on the rec.food.cooking newsgroup by a poster named Sheldon. The original recipe was not vegan, so I veganised it and put this version first on my website and now here.
Serving the dish: This is good as a side dish, or served on toast as a light meal or snack. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days; I've not tried freezing it. I've made it about 20 or 30 times in the past few years and find it a very useful standby when I need to add a bit of nutrition or colour to a menu. If I'm serving it at a dinner party I usually make it ahead and reheat it, to avoid having too much last-minute work.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
If using fresh spinach, wash it, drain it, and cook it in just the water clinging to the leaves, then cool under cold running water and chop coarsely. If using frozen spinach, just thaw it, either by leaving it in the fridge overnight, or by leaving it on the counter for a few hours, or in the microwave.
Cook the onion in a small heavy pan over moderately low heat, stirring often, until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring continually, for a further two minutes. Add the milk off the heat and stir in well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring and making sure it doesn't catch on the bottom.
Mix in nutritional yeast, salt and nutmeg (if using). Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until heated through.
Hints on adaptation:
- The amount of margarine called for should not be reduced - I've tried it and it doesn't work as well. You're making a kind of roux with it, and this amount is needed for the quantity of flour.
- Some salt is essential to bring out the flavours, but you can halve or quarter the stated amount if you wish.
- You can use sweetened soya milk if you can't get the unsweetened stuff, but I find it makes the dish a little too sweet.
- If you don't want to be vegan, you can use butter instead of the margarine, cow milk instead of the soya milk, and a hard cheese such as Parmesan instead of the nutritional yeast.
- You can replace the nutmeg with another flavouring if you like, for example garlic puree added once all the soya milk is in, or fresh finely-chopped garlic added about a minute before the onions are done. Garlic puree is salty, so leave the salt out if you use it.