This frittata – slowly baked in the oven rather than fried in a pan – is a glorious blend of the exotic and the homey. The mint adds a touch of sophistication, whereas the oozy, rich, melted cheese cries out comfort food. A Syrian dish, from the Jewish tradition, that resembles the filling of a quiche rather more than what we, in Europe, think of as a frittata. The key is its slow bake in the oven which allows it to stay soft and delightfully gooey in the middle, like scrambled eggs. So that each bite literally melts in your mouth. Perhaps not the most beautiful of dishes – although there is something rather captivating about its golden, cheesy exterior – but its taste more than compensates for what it may lack in appearance.
The recipe is adapted from Poopa Dweck’s stunning cookbook ‘Aromas of Aleppo’. I have slowly made it my own over the course of the past few years, as it has firmly ensconced itself in my repertoire of favourites; and I wheel it out, without fail, whenever I need to cater for vegetarians, picky eaters – no one, unless perhaps, they suffer from severe lactose allergies, can say no to this dish – or at the end of a difficult day when I crave something truly soothing. For there is no comfort quite like a slice of this frittata: soft, piping hot from the oven and deeply filling.
It is an additional bonus that it is very easy to put together. Most of the ingredients are items that you might already have in your freezer and fridge – or can certainly pick up at your local corner store. You can make it ahead of time – up to 24 hours in advance of when you are planning on serving it – and pop it in the oven to bake just before your guests arrive, or pull it together absentmindedly at the last minute after a long day at work.
Each time I cook it, the recipe evolves slightly. Sometimes I add mint – an absolute must in the summer – other times I omit it. Then there is the question of the cheese: Dweck recommends using Muenster cheese – which is a simple melting cheese, rather like Monterrey Jack – but I prefer a combination of mozzarella, cheddar, feta and cottage cheeses, which I find a little lighter in flavour. Think of the recipe as a blueprint from which you can create your own perfect frittata – just as you like it.
Trust me, when I say that it is very hard to go wrong. And even harder to say no to seconds.
To Make Spinach, Cheese and Mint Syrian Frittata
Serves 4-6 as a main course
Prep Time: 15 mins; Cooking Time: 40 mins
- 1 red onion
- splash of oil for cooking
- 500g frozen spinach
- 350g grated cheddar cheese – I usually cheat and buy the ready grated kind
- 150g cottage cheese
- 100g feta cheese
- medium sized mozzarella cheese
- 5 eggs
- handful of fresh mint
- pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Peel and roughly chop the onion; put a splash of oil in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat for five minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. When the onion has softened add the spinach to the pan and leave over the heat to defrost. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat lightly. Roughly chop the mozzarella and feta cheese, then add to the eggs in the mixing bowl along with the set of the cheese. Stir until well mixed. By now the spinach should be defrosted, take it off the heat and mix in with eggs and cheese. Roughly chop the mint and add that too. Finally add a pinch of salt to taste – but be careful not to overdo it, as the feta cheese is already quite salty. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and put it into the centre of the oven to cook. Bake for 40 minutes or until it turns golden on top. Serve warm – it really does taste best straight out of the oven, although I would not turn my nose up at leftovers heated up again the next day – perhaps with a crunchy green salad or some fresh tomatoes. Warm flatbreads are also a fabulous addition to this meal.