Friday, 14 September 2012

Courgette, Spinach & Potato gratin - with leftovers for lunch!

What do you eat for lunch? If Twitter is to be believed, there are plenty of people sitting down to delicious plates of this and that, created in their own home specially for the purpose of lunch. Not me. I am a big believer in breakfast (I growl if I don’t eat in the morning) and supper/tea/dinner (whatever you like to call it – an evening meal) but during the week, at least, lunch gets a bit lost. 

The children and the Husband usually take a packed lunch. School dinners are £2 a piece and although the kids like them, and I think they are OK-ish, Blue & Pink are always STARVING after they have eaten a carefully balanced 2 course meal at school and I just don’t consider them to be value for money. They are allowed one a week. Packed lunches for them, then. 

Pink is never happier than with a plastic tub of cold pasta and a hard-boiled egg. For all that she’s my veg eater, I struggle to get her to eat anything other than a couple of carrot sticks of cucumber (in whatever form she has specified – sometimes slices, sometimes chunks – it’s always as well to consult her for fear of an earful after school) in her packed lunch, and she’s not big on fruit, so unless there are raspberries or pears to hand she will get her fruit in smoothy form plus whatever fruit filled cake I have to hand (today it was pieces of apple & date slice made for pud the other day, leftovers sliced up and frozen pre-clingfilmed to prevent me picking for convenience.

Blue likes his sarnies. This term he has shown an interest in making his own. Ham, cheese, chutney, tomato and lettuce. It’s amazing. In the time it takes him to make 2 sandwiches, I can make Pink’s and the Husband’s lunches, add the extras (cake, anything tasty I might have in the freezer like pie etc) empty the dishwasher, put a load of washing on and make breakfast* for everyone. Still, with such an important job to focus on, it stops him dripping round wondering aloud why I won’t allow him to watch TV/play on the computer before school…

The Husband, lucky man, gets an eclectic mix of whatever might be in the fridge, or sandwiches – depending on which office he is working in or whether he might be driving over lunchtime. If he’s really lucky there might be soup.

And that leaves me. I work at home so the fridge is at my disposal, but more often than not, I use the time I take for a lunch break to get ahead for tea, put the washing out, waste time on Twitter conduct important social media dialogue, or – if I am pushed for time, to be honest, just work right through. I eat, don’t get me wrong, but often it doesn’t even get as far as a sandwich.

Today, though, well today was a good day lunch-wise because last night, we had a lovely supper and there was enough left over for me to have today. Admittedly, I ate it cold, out of the dish it had been cooked in (we don’t have a microwave, for complicated reasons relating back to the days of Blue’s chemotherapy, and it seemed like a waste of electricity to turn the oven on just to heat it up, although if I had been making a cake, things would have been different…). And it was mighty tasty. I would almost suggest you made it just to eat cold, but it was even tastier hot last night, so I won’t.

I would be guilty of a sin of omission if I didn’t tell you that I was inspired by a guest post on The Claremont Road Kitchen’s blog the other day for Courgette Gratin. I was going to make that straight, but then I noticed that the spinach in the veg patch needed a good pick. And then I wondered about turning it into a main meal in its own right…

Courgette, Spinach & Potato Gratin

Serves 2 as a main meal (with enough leftover for a lunch!) or possibly 4 as a ‘complete’ side dish


1 onion, sliced, 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped, 250g courgette, sliced reasonably fine, 250g spinach stalks, sliced into approx. 1-2cm slices, 250g washed spinach leaves, roughly chopped, 300-350g cold cooked new/salad potatoes, Freshly ground salt & pepper and nutmeg to grate, 1 tbsp plain flour, 150 ml milk, Dijon mustard to taste, handful of fresh breadcrumbs, 50g grated cheddar


Pre-heat the oven to 2000C. If you haven’t already cooked the potatoes, wash, put in a pan which has a steamer attachment, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. While the potatoes are cooking, use the opportunity to steam the spinach leaves till they have wilted, then remove, chop a little more and squeeze out the water. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooked & cool enough to handle (or if they are already cooked and you are effectively using up leftovers like I was) thickly slice the potatoes and layer in the bottom of your gratin dish, which you may have buttered.

Heat a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan and cook the onions and garlic on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes till softening nicely. Add in the courgettes and chopped spinach stalks and cook on a low heat, covered, for 10 mins or so. The spinach especially will release some water, so after 10 mins, remove the lid, add some freshly ground salt and pepper and a good grating of nutmeg, and carry on cooking for 5 more minutes to get rid of some of the liquid. Put the milk in a small pan and heat up. If you haven’t already cooked your spinach leaves, do this now, either in a steamer, or in a pan with a lid over a low heat. You only need a tiny amount of water – just what stays on the leaves after you have washed them to be honest. They will only need a few minutes.

Back to the frying pan – stir in the flour, then the hot milk and keep stirring to make a sauce which coats the veg. I added a bit of the grated cheese at this stage. Chop up your spinach leaves, squeeze out excess moisture, then spread on top of the potatoes. Tip in the courgette & spinach stalk mixture, spread on top of the potatoes/spinach leaves, sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and the rest of the grated cheese, dot with some small pieces of butter and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes till bubbling and golden.

*’make’ in the loosest sense of the word, you understand – might stretch to porridge or eggy bread, but usually consists of me throwing bowls, spoons and cereal packets onto the table, while swigging desperately from my cuppa trying to replenish my caffeine levels


  1. See what happens when you find inspiration elsewhere and then you go and create a totally fantastic new creation yourself! Well done! Loving the addition of the 'leftovers' from the veg patch!

  2. Yum, yum, yum! Oops better get back to my 'important social media dialogue' :)

  3. A great way of using up veggies x

  4. I love it when a dish makes enough for lunch leftovers. Great post!


I LOVE comments - please leave one. Unfortunately, I have been getting hideous amounts of SPAM so please can you do the word verification thingy?