I was sitting in Brunswick Heads the other day having my hair cut by Gini, hairdresser extraordinaire (and roller derby queen), when she asked me what you do with a garden full of kale?
I have to admit that it has taken me a while to warm to all kinds of ‘greens’ – for they are too redolent of my childhood school dinners and the pervasive smell of boiled cabbage lingering in the damp corridors, along with malingering, bored teenagers.
Kale has changed all of that. It’s fancy name of cavalo nero just means black cabbage in Italian. (It’s like finding out the Casanova just means Newhouse!) It becomes every day instead of exotic.
It’s part of the large cabbage family of Brassicacea – botanic name Brassica oleracea acephela – and therefore susceptible to pests of this family – particularly the cabbage white butterfly.
What changed my mind?; it’s incredibly easy to grow, cold hardy and long lived, it doesn’t smell when you are cooking it, it’s extremely versatile to cook with and very good for you at the same time.
KALE is very nutritious: a good source of folate, vitamin K, iron, iodine, calcium and Vitamin C and fibre.
TIP: When the stems get long and leggy, just cut the top off and it will sprout from all sides giving tender, new succulent growth. Just make sure it gets some water and you give it a liquid feed.
Cavolo Nero and Bean Soup: This is a delicious Sicillian recipe (freeze what you don’t use)
400g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and cooked in salted water until tender (they are firmer than the canned variety but they can be used instead)
2tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
2 sticks celery, diced
1 carrot. chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock
1 cup halved, fresh cherry tomatoes
200g cavolo nero, shredded (discard thick stems)
Shaved parmesan, to serve
Juice of a lemon
1. Heat 2 tbs of oil and saute onion, carrot and celery for about 5-10 minutes stirring often.
2. Add tomatoes, stock, cavolo nero and beans and simmer for another 15 minutes.
3. Add salt and black pepper to taste
4. Serve topped with shaved parmesan and a drizzle of olive with bread recipe (to follow)
5. I like to add the juice of a lemon. See what you think
Other ways to use kale:
Sauteed: Shred it, removing the midrib, and blanch in hot water for about three minutes.
Meanwhile heat a fry pan or wok with some olive oil. Toss the wilted kale in the hot oil for about 1 minute. Add sea salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with any kind of meat or fish. You can beetroot tops in the same way – they are delicious and a favourite in Greek cuisine.
Breakfast: Blanch some covolo nero (stems removed), drain and chop roughly. Divide between individual buttered ovenproof dishes and break two eggs into eat dish. Add a handful of grated cheddar cheese (can be fetta), salt, cayenne pepper and bake in a moderate oven until cheese is golden and eggs are cooked. (You can add a bit of cream too)
With pasta: Sautee some day old sour dough breadcrumbs with olive oil, anchovies, fresh chilli and lemon zest. Meanwhile blanch some shredded covolo nero. Mix together with fine spaghetti. Drizzle with olive oil and top with freshly grated parmesan.