Spinach Kicks

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I’ve done one or two exciting things in my time, but one of the very bestest things I’ve ever done was to work for the late and legendary John Peel.

John was amazing. For a brief and splendid period I was his humble Broadcast Assistant, and was given the honour of compiling the festive fifty and helping out with the phones during his programme. He once heard me rowing down the phone to payroll about the late payment of a freelance colleague, and without giving the matter a second thought, immediately gave him a huge wad of cash to tide him over until payday.

We bonded over a mutual love of websites like http://whitehouse.georgewbush.org/index.asp and other such subversiveness. Although he’d frequently give me a proper telling off for smoking. He referred to his wife Sheila as his “better half” and never once acted as if he were a household name. Sometimes, he would come into the office and just lie on the floor for hours because of his terrible back ache. He was almost self-effacingly down to earth, had a sense of humour drier than a gin martini and opened all his own post.

Part of my daily routine on the way in to Clipstone Street would be a spinach roll from the Villandry food shop, just around the corner. He once strolled into the office and asked me what on earth I was eating. I let him try a bit and he loved it. After that I always made a point of getting an extra one for him.

Every Wednesday evening, before going on air he would take the team (Louise, Dave, Hermeet and myself) out for dinner and a bottle of wine and regale us with the most brilliant, fascinating stories from his life. He’d invariably have us in stitches or open-mouthed with disbelief. We’d beg him to write a book.

Although I moved on to far duller things, the others worked with him until the end and he became a bit of a father figure to my friend Hermeet.

I couldn’t eat spinach rolls for ages after he died. I happened to be in Villandry the other day but they didn’t have any; so in tribute to him I’ve decided to make my own using feta and Coolea cheese. I’ll be selling a load of these (amongst other things) at the forthcoming Covent Garden stall on the 13th August, and any profits I make will go to Amnesty International.

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1 onion, diced

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

450g pack of spinach leaves, chopped

Nutmeg

Worcester sauce

A pinch of cayenne pepper

¼ tsp paprika

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp pine nuts

2 tsp capers, chopped

2 tbsp dill, finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley finely chopped

100g Coolea cheese

½ pack feta, cubed

Ready rolled puff pastry

2 tsp sesame seeds

1 egg beaten

  • Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic.
  • Throw in the roughly chopped spinach.
  • Grate over lots of nutmeg, glug in some Worcester sauce, the cayenne pepper, paprika and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix well.
  • The spinach will have wilted by now. Take off the heat and stir in a tablespoon of pine nuts, the capers, dill and parsley.
  • Allow the spinach mixture to cool and squeeze out any excess juice.
  • Grate over the Coolea or other decent cheese.
  • Stir in the cubed feta.
  • Unroll the pastry and cut into 3 rectangles.
  • Spoon the mixture down the middle of each rectangle.
  • Join the pasty along the long seam and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7 for 15-20 mins.
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17 comments

  1. A lovely story, well told. Good recipe too

  2. He sounds like he was as lovely in real life as he seemed across the airwaves.

    Save me some spinach rolls – I’ll come down straight after work.

    meemalee xxx

  3. Lovely story. I remember my dad calling me, close to tears when he’d heard John Peel had died – he was a big fan. Good luck with the stall!

  4. jj_89

    Peel was a proper guru. I was still in school when he died and used to love the fact that a guy of his age was an authority on new tunes!

  5. gastrogeek

    Simon – Cheers, so glad you liked it.

    Meemalee -he was…and yes, will definitely make sure I save you some! Xx

    Lizzie – thanks and wow, your dad sounds very cool!

    JJ-89 yep, he was pretty amazing…

  6. What a charming personal post. I love it. Food writing at it’s best.

  7. Great story and recipe. Thanks for posting!

  8. Dan

    This kind of story really warms the cockles but leaves you with a lingering sadness at the same time. Bittersweet is the word I’m looking for I think.

    May well pop down to convent garden on the 13th and try one of “Peel’s Special Spinach Rolls”

  9. Lovely story and lovely recipe. Really heartwarming. I’ll be popping down to try one next week :) Are you manning the stall solo?

  10. gastrogeek

    Kavey, what a lovely thing to say, thank you!

    ELTW – cheers am glad you liked it.

    Dan and Niamh – thanks! I’ll be sure to save you both some, I’ve asked Sig to share the stall with me, she’ll be donating the money from her profits to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital so between us we’ll be putting the world to rights! (We won’t be there next week though, it’s not until the 13th Aug)!!

  11. Wow, what a touching tribute to a great man. At the risk of being a total schmaltz, I suspect he would have been proud of you Rejji for this piece.

    And as your pardner-in-crime on the 13th I get first dibs on the spinach kicks, good luck to those unsuspecting visitors hoping to buy one! As an aside, the kicks would also be good with filo pastry, non?

  12. I’m doing the stall on the 6th but I’ve not figured out what I am going to do yet. Eeeeek! Always last minute.

  13. gastrogeek

    Thanks Sig, am sure they would be equally good with filo, great idea.

    Niamh – Same! This is the only thing I’ve really thought of doing so far,must work out the rest…will be sure to come down and say hi on the 6th!

  14. Great post and nice insight into the great man and broadcaster.

    Your Spinach Rolls are bar a couple of ingredients very similar to the Greek “Spanakotiropita” made with Filo pastry and Feta , Kaceri and Graviera cheeses. My dad makes the best I have ever tasted and adds a tiny bit of bechamel too !

    I can’t wait to try them !

  15. I am just echoing the comments here, it’s a moving and personal story indeed, I will make sure to pop down to the stall to buy some from you.

  16. What a wonderful story.

    I’ll be down on 13th to get me some of those spinach rolls…

  17. Pingback: The Food Blog - From blogging to flogging

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