Some six or seven years ago I had spinach and artichoke dip for the first time. A friend of mine, then living in Broxburn but originally from the US, served it as snack before dinner. It was creamy, reassuringly green and very tasty. That remains the best spinach and artichoke dip I’ve ever had although I’ve had several good versions since.
This year’s American adventure saw me eat spinach and artichoke dip in Washington, Nashville and Austin. It’s not the same everywhere so it’s always interesting to see what you get. Sometimes it’s more cheese than vegetables, sometimes it comes with a crunchy breadcrumb topping. In Washington, it came with crab. That was a mistake because the other flavours overpowered the crab completely. When I got home, I decided that I liked this dip so much that I wanted my own version.
The first step to recipe development is research into what’s there. I found out that traditional recipes for spinach and artichoke dip contain soft cheese and a large amount of mayo as well as the greens. Several recipes also boast “if you don’t like artichokes, don’t worry! You can’t taste them.” It’s true. Most versions of this dip that I’ve had tastes of something not quite spinach, cheese or artichokes: a new amalgam of flavour. To me, this is a problem. I like spinach and I like artichokes. When I developed my version of the recipe, I wanted both flavours to be distinguishable.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
This baked dip is great as a starter or a snack. It’s quite a solid dip: baking it doesn’t make it much softer. You can use spinach water or creme fraiche to loosen it. Cooled, it keeps well in the fridge for several days and makes a nice sandwich spread. If you don’t like artichokes, this is not for you: in this dip, you can taste them!
Serves four as a started, two people for dinner and makes a good addition to a buffet.
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 tin spinach in water (well drained). Retain some of the spinach water in case you need to loosen the dip before cooking.
- 1 tin artichoke hearts in water (drained)
- 200 grams light soft cheese
- 50 grams grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Italian-style vegetarian hard cheese
- 3 generous tablespoons light creme fraiche
- Black pepper and nutmeg to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 160C (fan) or the equivalent.
- Fry the onion and put in a bowl to cool.
- Roughly chop the spinach and artichokes and place with the onions.
- Add the cheeses and creme fraiche.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Season to taste.
- Put the dip in a low and wide oven-safe bowl and cook for 45 minutes. Half-way through, stir the dip to even the cooking. It's done when it's piping hot all the way through and the top is golden brown.
- Serve with toast or pita chips.