Always a favourite of growers and gardeners, winter kales have returned to the modern cook’s kitchen bringing with them a wide range of flavours and textures, but more over their popularity has been bolstered by their nutritional value. Full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they really pack a punch. Eaten in ‘raw slaws’, juiced, stir-fried, braised or just wilted, the flavours are robust and married well with other strong flavours such as garlic, chilli or smoked meats, bacon and chorizo.
There are several varieties to choose from. They each have character, lasting well for 4-5 days after picking if kept cool. Our top three grown year after year at Roots are;
‘Curly Kale’ – tightly curled, bright green (although this year we also have a deep purple variety) leaves with a robust flavour, the most popular variety for juicing, stir fries and raw salads. Scrunching up or ‘massaging’ the leaves helps to break them down slightly and make them more palatable if they are to be torn and included in a raw dish.
‘Cavalo Nero’ – Long slender ‘straps’ of deep green, blistered leaves, a Cavalo Nero plant is as much admired for its good looks in the garden/field as on the plate! Often adorning Tuscan terraces, elegant leaves on sturdy stems waiting to be plucked and added fresh to a pot of soup or stew. Fabulous flavour and cropping from October until late March.
‘Red Russian’ – Fringed, pinky green leaves which have a peppery kick. Young leaves can be added raw to a salad, larger leaves stripped from the stem add a spicy note to stir fries.
So simple and moorish – crisps that are good for you?! Turn on the oven to heat to 170°C. Rinse the kale, strip it from the stalks and shake off any excess water (a salad spinner is handy if you have one).
Lightly drizzle the torn leaves with olive oil and toss around to give the lightest coating you can. Spread out on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt and bake at the top of the oven for 5-8 minutes. Watch not to over bake as the flavours become bitter. Serve immediately, not keepers!
A mixture of a hearty soup and stew, a wonderfully nutritious, reviving but light meal, ideal for winter lunch or supper. You will need; carrot, onion and celery chopped into small cubes, garlic, finely chopped, 1 tbsp olive oil, Puy lentils, good stock, Cavalo Nero or chopped winter cabbage
The base of flavour in this recipe is a good stock. By a ‘good stock’ I mean the stock you have recovered from your Christmas turkey, a roast chicken dinner or as this version used, the stock of a boiled ham (check it’s not too salty), made with fresh onion, carrots, celery, herbs (fresh thyme is delicious, also bay). You can of course use a proprietary vegetable stock – ‘Marigold Organic Bouillon’ is our go to, every ‘stoup’ has its individual character.
In a large saucepan warm the olive oil and toss in the chopped carrot, celery and onion. Sweat this for five minutes or so, gently allowing the vegetables to begin cooking but not colouring. Add the chopped garlic and puy lentils, mixing around for a few minutes until the lentils are well combined. Pour the stock over the vegetables and lentils to cover them well and bring to a gentle simmer.
Cook until the vegetables are soft and the lentils have absorbed much of the liquid, then add more hot stock to give enough liquid in which to ‘poach’ the torn leaves of kale/cavalo nero/winter cabbage which can be added five minutes before serving. Check the seasoning and serve in warmed bowls with crusty bread.
We think this is the best way to serve greens on the side of any meal, a roast, a stew, anything that needs a green boost on a plate. It’s a last minute veg best cooked and served immediately to retain all the fabulous nutritious elements of the leaves.
Wash and strip the leaves of kale from the stalk; hold firmly in one hand at the bottom and running your other hand up the stalk will successfully select the edible from the more challenging. Don’t shake off the water, this is necessary for cooking.
Warm a little olive oil in a wide sauté pan or frying pan and add garlic or chopped chilli or both. Toss in the kale and immediately lid the pan to retain any steam that rises as this will cook the kale. After a minute or so, remove the lid and turn the kale with a spatula, tongs or a good shake, replace the lid and cook for another couple of minutes. The leaves will now be wilted and ready to serve, add a squeeze of lemon juice if you like to finish. Pile onto a warm plate, season with salt and pepper, they are very good looking on top of a heap of mashed potato.