This spinach roll could – and should – be a part of your holiday buffet this year. Although delicious and impressive, it is very easy and fast to make with three components in total – spinach sponge, cream cheese filling and smoked salmon. It will come together easier than you can say “roll”, and the best part is that it is served cold, so you can make it ahead and have it ready for you in the fridge while you are being busy preparing all of those meals that should be served right away.

The spinach roll used to be a cold appetizer for our Christmas Eve’s dinner, only we made it with turkey ham instead of smoked salmon. Of course you can use any meat product you wish, like smoked ham, thinly sliced cooked chicken, prosciutto… But I really liked the idea of putting smoked salmon in and I was not wrong – the flavours really complimented each other because each flavour is mild enough not to overpower the others.

Spinach mainly gives the colour, but also keeps the sponge hearthy and moist. Cream cheese filling gives balance and creaminess, making the roll light and refreshing. I added some horseradish in the filling because I love the combination of horseradish and salmon. It added just a tiny kick, but made a big difference in flavour, making it spicier and flavourful. And the smoked salmon actually holds the strongest flavour, so biting into a piece makes this roll a really special treat.

There, I hope you are convinced to make it. It is really a classy cold dish you can serve at any party or simply make your dinner table that more special.

Ingredients for the spinach sponge:
250 g chopped spinach, thawed
4 large eggs, separated
100 g flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp milk

Ingredients for the cream cheese filling:
400 g cream cheese spread
1 Tbsp horseradish
salt to taste, depending on the type of cream cheese you are using. Mine is delicious as is, so I didn’t put any extra salt in the filling.
100 g smoked salmon

preparation time: about 1,5 hours, first cooling included
baking time: 15-18 minutes, 180°C (350 F)
baking pan size: 28 x 38 cm (11 x 15 in)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350 F. Prepare a baking pan. Lign it with parchment paper and spray with a non stick spray (or brush with some melted butter and toss some flour on top), just to be sure that the roll wouldn’t stick afterwards.

I used my oven-sized baking pan. However, my oven is smaller than some, see the dimensions given above. Since this is a thin sponge, adjust the recipe to the size of your pan so the roll wouldn’t turn out too thin or too thick to roll it.

2. Start by preparing the spinach. I suggest using frozen, because it’s really easy, just thaw it, drain any extra liquid and measure its weight then. If you are using fresh spinach, cook it, chop finely in the food processor and drain any extra liquid as well. Spinach used for this recipe should be finely chopped and pretty dried out so it wouldn’t make the roll soggy.

3. Separate the eggs. First beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and set them aside. Then beat the egg yolks for about 3-4 minutes or until they gain some volume.

4. Combine all the dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder and sift them into the egg yolks. Add oil and milk and whisk everything together. Add spinach and mix it in on low speed or using a spatula.

5. Finally, fold the egg whites in slowly using a spatula so they wouldn’t deflate. Transfer the mixture to a prepared baking pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake for about 15 minutes. The top should be dry and spongy (if you press it lightly, it should spring back) and the sponge should be able to detach from the parchment paper easily.

6. Take it out of the oven and transfer the sponge to a flat working surface not removing the parchment. Let it cool for just about 5 minutes so you can handle it with your hands. Position it horizontally, so that the longer side is closest to you and roll it like a jelly roll, still not removing the parchment paper. Let it cool like that for about an hour or until the roll is cool completely.

You could peel the parchment off, transfer the sponge to a clean kitchen towel and roll it like that. I think keeping it wrapped in the parchment works just fine. Rolling the sponge warm gives it a chance to form the shape while the sponge is still elastic. 

7. After the roll has cooled completely, make the filling. Beat the cream cheese for about 2-3 minutes, just to make it lighter and creamier, it will be easier to spread that way. Add horseradish and flavourings (if using any), beat them in until the mixture looks homogenous.

8. Roll out the sponge back into a rectangle, peel the parchment paper off and spread the cream cheese evenly all over the top. Then arrange thin slices of smoked salmon and roll the sponge tightly back into a roll. Wrap it in the kitchen towel or plastic wrap to keep its shape better and let it cool in the fridge for several hours. You could cut it right away, but letting it set will give the chance for all the flavours to really merge.

That’s it – enjoy with a glass of white wine and I hope it will be a lovely appetizer to a glorious Christmas dinner!

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