Turkish Recipes: Spinach With Eggs – An Ode to Spinach

We arrived in Turkey as non-spinach-lovers. Well, in the UK, we had bought the odd bag of baby spinach leaves from the supermarkets just because we knew spinach is exceptionally good for you – and because it was the ‘New Cool’ to have baby spinach leaves in your salads. I can’t say either of us ever noticed its flavour and we certainly never experimented outside the world of salads with it.

Spend an amount of time in Turkey and it’s impossible to escape the fact that spinach is a significant feature of Turkish cuisine. At the moment, Fethiye market is packed with the stuff. Huge piles of dark green muddy leaves, still attached to their roots. You don’t buy a (very expensive) sealed cellophane bag of washed, delicate, baby spinach leaves. You buy kilos of unwashed greenery, rammed into a carrier bag – as much as will fit in – and it’ll set you back a couple of lira or so, depending on the time of year.

Spinach on Fethiye Market

Spinach for sale on Fethiye market this afternoon

So, what to do with all this spinach? We hate walking around Fethiye market and ignoring foods that are obviously in season. We started to look into more Turkish recipes as soon as we arrived in Fethiye just so we could make use of the seasonal produce – and maybe learn to love the vegetables we always avoided back in England. Spinach definitely fits into the category of one of those greens we have learned to love – and experimenting with Turkish recipes is completely responsible for that.

Previously on Turkey’s For Life, we have posted a Turkish recipe for a spinach and cheese börek and also a çintar mushroom and spinach börek. We bought half a kilo of spinach on Fethiye market on Tuesday (because I couldn’t resist) so I had to think of what to do with it when we got home.

There’s a Turkish recipe I’ve had my eye on for some time as it seems to pop up everywhere and I could never really picture what it would taste like. So, at lunchtime today, it was time to experiment. I made Ispanaklı Yumurta (Spinach with Eggs).

Turkish Recipe – Ispanaklı Yumurta

  • Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, chop an onion and add it to the pan.
  • I suspect this part isn’t traditionally Turkish but I also chopped three fresh chillies and added that to the pan, too. Spinach and chillies are just wonderful together.

I had the pan on quite a high heat so the onions would be seared around the edges. I then turned the heat down and allowed the onions and chillies to cook for a couple more minutes so the onions would soften.

Wilting Spinach From Fethiye Market

Half a kilo of spinach soon reduces in volume

  • Once your onions have softened, add half a kilo of washed and roughly chopped spinach leaves. They’ll be trying to jump out of the pan at first because there are so many – but they soon wilt right down.
  • Stir the spinach leaves into the onions. At this point, I added some hot paprika powder and a pinch of ground cumin. Again, the cumin isn’t traditional but cumin and eggs? It was just meant to be.
Turkish Food - Spinach & Eggs

One day, I will learn the art of egg-cracking

  • After a few minutes, make two wells in your spinach and onion mixture.
  • Take two eggs and crack one into the centre of each well. As you can see from the photo, I am useless at cracking eggs and so I was proud of the one that remained intact.
Turkish Spinach & Eggs

The eggs will cook through in around 4 or 5 minutes on a low heat

  • Once you’ve cracked the eggs into the pan, cover with a lid and leave until the whites of the eggs have firmed but the yolk is still runny.

We were having our Ispanaklı Yumurta with toast so as soon as I covered the pan with a lid, I toasted the bread and when it was done, the eggs were cooked. Obviously, the egg with the burst yolk had no runny yolk left!

Turkish Recipe - Spinach & Eggs

Ispanaklı Yumurta served with toasted bread and yoghurt

We had our Ispanaklı yumurta with toasted bread and a serving of süzme yoghurt. And yes, we ate it outside on the balcony because, even though it’s February, the weather in Fethiye is very pleasant at the moment.

Ispanaklı Yumurta is a fantastic brunch / lunch and is going to be a new regular on our menu. The yoghurt went perfectly with the dish.

Some Turkish recipes recommend adding a small amount of chopped tomato to your spinach but, as we were using ours as a toast topping, I left it out this time. I fully intend to try adding a tomato next time.

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  1. This is one of my favorite dishes, you can also cook this in the oven if you could be bothered. I usually add biber salca in the spinach onion mix.

  2. @ Simcha: We were amazed at how good it was. I thought about maybe adding some biber salca (it’s a permanent fixture in our fridge) so I’ll definitely try that next time. Thanks.

  3. You are just like me. I never used to eat Spinach in the Uk but come to Turkey and was tempted one day to try this recipe. I managed to make it and it is quite delicious. Who would of though Spinach and eggs are a good mix? Never put the onions in mine but will try it next time.

  4. yummy,so delicious !

  5. @ Natalie: We never saw much point to it really, back in the UK. Oh, and yet more evidence that you do indeed cook! The onions are a winner. Give them go! 🙂

  6. @ Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. It certainly was delicious; especially with the yoghurt.

  7. Also, one of my favorite simple Turkish dishes that my mother would make for us on a regular basis. We Americanized it by putting on an extra helping of yogurt on top and dousing it with Tabasco (hot sauce).

  8. @ Sam: Thanks for your comment. The yoghurt was great with it. Your tobasco sauce was our chillies and hot paprika. 🙂

  9. I LOVE spinach- I am totally having this for breakfast tomorrow!! I was a bit put off at first- it’s a student thing to mix spinach in with scrambled eggs (which I’m quite sick of) but this might turn me around!!
    Now I can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow 🙂

  10. Ispanakli yumurta is one of my favorite dishes in our cuisine. I make it often in Winter. I can eat it even at breakfast spreading on a slice of bread or lavash. And I love your accompanying it with strained yogurt.

  11. @thebockster: You’re going to have to let us know how you went on with this one. We’re curious! 🙂 Can totally appreciate the student thing!

    @ Zerrin: I can’t believe we waited so long to try it. I’ve been looking at resipes for ages. We put yoghurt with everything these days! 🙂

  12. Very tasty spinach dish, Julia. A complete meal. I guess it would work baked as well.

    Have a great weekend!

  13. @ Nisrine: Absolutely lovely. Someone else suggested it worked if baked, too. Many Turkish dishes are cooked on the hob but sometimes we put things in the oven, too.

    Thanks, you too.

  14. lovely! In Israel we would call this a spinach shakshuka, a variation of the regular tomato kind. Keep the recipes coming!

  15. @ Sarah: Really? Interesting. There’s a Turkish dish called şakşuka (pronounced same as yours I would think). I’ll look into that. Hoping to have a recipe a week but it probably won’t happen. 🙂

  16. Finally got round to having this for my breakfast this morning. Excellent!! I knew that I would love this as soon as I saw the recipe, as I have always loved spinach. So good I am going to have it again tomorrow, to use up the rest of the ingrediants!!

  17. @ MBS01: I think it’s one of those dishes that tastes a lot better than it looks. We loved it too, when we had it. Glad you liked it. Afiyet olsun.

  18. One of my favorites – my mom used to make this for me every weekend when I was a child. A personal favorite with fond memories every time I whip some up 🙂

  19. @ Anil: Awww. 🙂 We never expected it to taste so good. And do you ‘whip some up’ on a regular basis? It’s gonna be a new regular for us.

  20. Oh yes, it’s a regular part of my diet – breakfast or dinner!

  21. @ Anil: Very glad to hear it! 🙂

  22. The Lebanese in Adelaide do this sort of thing with spinach (minus eggs) and put it into a folded “Lebanese pizza”. I love them and decided to make some at home: two onions, big bunch of huge spinach, salt & pepper.
    Then I made hollows and put eggs in it! and we scoffed it for breakfast.
    I thought I had invented eggs with spinach!

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