A good few years ago now, my love affair with vegetables began when I started growing specialty varieties for The London Borough Market in the UK. I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor in Jane Scotter owner of Fern Verrow (Cordon Bleu trained chef and ex-partner of Neal’s Yard Dairy). Aside from our mutual respect of the land as a living organism, we were both in awe of the impact biodynamic farming had on produce. At the end of the day we would have a glass of wine, flick through the pages of Vogue and talk food in all its facets. Jane really helped elevate my own personal style as a cook. I owe much of my ponsy food snobbery to her.
Most exciting were the mornings we got up at the crack of dawn to ‘pick’ for the market or ‘planted out’ (sitting on the back of a tractor singing and lovingly dropping our hand reared plants from the nursery into the soil below). Weeding a huge field of brassicas (Cavolo Nero, Curly and Russian Kale) could be a dreary task, but to stand back at the end of the day and see a huge expanse of soft feathery hands in greens of every hue wave back at you as if to say thank you for helping me breath more easily, made all my petulant huffing and puffing worthwhile.
If you ‘google’ Kale you will find something sensible, along the lines of “Kale has long been heralded a super food. It is a hardy, cool-season green that is part of the cabbage family. It grows best in the spring and autumn and can tolerate all fall frosts. Kale can be used in salads or as a garnish and is rich in minerals and vitamins A and C.”
Ask me about it and I will tell you Kale is beautiful, romantic (give me a bouquet of kale over roses any day of the week), sweet, nutty, lemony, soulful and yes it is good for you, but rather than reading about how rich it is in vitamins and minerals I prefer to think of Kales’ goodness as a pair of silk Hermes gloves stroking each of my vital organs like they were a new born baby. Kale is a magical green treat. It is versatile enough to use as a winter substitute in recipes, yet bold enough to stand on its own merits
Kale Pesto is a wonderful example. It takes a few more minutes than regular pesto to prepare as you really should blanch the leaves, but it is worth the effort. (I like to use red as the leaves are a little softer, but green is fine too). It will make a lovely addition to soups, sandwiches, eggs, and fish or use it the good old fashioned way tossed through some fresh pasta or gnocchi. Make sure you detach the leaves from the stalks. If this is your first time with Kale, eating a mouth full of woody chew will most likely deter you from flying the Kale banner in future. That said, don’t throw them away.
Sweet and Spicy Kale stems make for a delicious side dish or you could make a meal of them by adding some roasted kumara, brown rice and a few toasted nuts or seeds. Cooked in the right way, they are transformed from being potential compost to another meal in your Kale repertoire.
If Kale gets the big thumbs down in your household but you’d really like to fast track some vitamins into your loved ones, fear not, mashed potato tends to make everything ok. Colcannon which is essentially potatoes and kale can be used as a topping for an easy fish pie, fantastic potato cakes and sits quite happily alongside all proteins.
If you’re already a Kale enthusiast and can’t get enough of that hearty goodness, Kale and White Bean Stew is the perfect winter dinner for you. Pop in some cooked chorizo sausage at the same time as the white beans if you want a meaty option.
Kale Caesar Salad will brighten up a dull day. Use the smaller leaves as they are softer, but finely shredding the kale works just as well. A few streaks of crispy bacon and a succulent chicken breast and you have the makings of another nourishing mini feast.
These are just a few of many possibilites. The list is endless. I hope you have fun discovering them!