Kale in a vegetable patch, plumage growing strong and black, broad leaves bubbling and gnarled, ugly but noble all at the same time. There is something almost primordial about this tough brassica, as if you are looking upon a slice of prehistoric forest where dinosaurs roam.
This romanticising about kale might be a little grand for something that is actually, fundamentally humble but the beauty or nobility even that it does have, lies in its hardiness, its perennial nature and its adaptability.
Kale also is punchy in flavour, having something towards cabbage but maybe is more vibrant.
Kales are classically used to fill in the lean months between January and March, but we like them too in the autumn as they go so well to bolster the heartier dishes you need and crave as the weather gets a little more crisp.
You can easily pop kale into a broth, casserole, pasta dish, have it with eggs, potatoes, curries and pesto.
There is a big trend of eating chopped kale raw in a salad but we sort of think no amount of massaging it with lemon juice with make raw kale any less of a chore to eat. We decidedly prefer it cooked or at least blitzed into a pesto.
There are certainly more delicate leaves, greens with more complex flavours or colours but there are almost none that you can grow year round and are just as adaptable. It is the ultimate ‘throw it into anything’ ingredient.
It is perhaps a little silly to talk about kale as this one thing seeing as there are so many types but they all largely can be used interchangeably. The main four varieties here are the much bemoaned but terrifically useful curly kale, red Russian which has pink-edged leaves, long leaved almost black cavolo nero and the flat-leafed kind known as hungry gap.
Curly kale is perhaps the least attractive, hardiest, toughest and maybe most misunderstood of the kale or brassica varieties. However, it is wonderful wilted down until tenderised, mixed into buttery, creamy, salty mashed potatoes.
4 or 5 medium potatoes such as red rooster
100g butter 2 leeks, cleaned well and green ends removed
200g curly kale, stalks removed
250ml of full fat milk
175ml of cream
Black pepper Optional
A handful of chopped wild garlic 2 spring onions, sliced thinly
Peel the potatoes and cook in a large pot of water for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked through. Remove and drain.
In a large saucepan heat the butter and add the leeks, cooking for around 10minutes until softened.
Add the wild garlic if using.
Add the curly kale and cook until wilted.
Pour in the milkand cream and bring to a simmer.
Add the cookedpotatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Mash with a potato masher until smooth.
Stir through an extra knob of butter for good measure with the spring onion and transfer into a serving dish.
This is a fairly simple recipe for a sort of Asian-style eggs and greens. The kale, being robust, really holds up well to the flavours of the spices and chillies. The yoghurt dressing is a really useful one for any type of salad and also goes well with roasted vegetables.
2 green chillies, thinly sliced
1 lime, quartered
2 large bunches of washed kale, stalks removed, chopped roughly
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Sea salt 1 tsp of cumin
A small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
4 organic eggs
For the yoghurt
250g of greek yoghurt
1 tbsp of olive oil
Sea salt 1 tsp of cucumber
Juice of half a lime
Make the yoghurt mixture by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well to combine.
Heat a little oil on a large frying pan, medium high heat and add thegarlic, cumin and half of the sliced green chillies, cook for around twominutes being careful not to let the spices stick or the garlic burn.
Add the kale, moving it around the pan, letting it wilt.
You can add the kale in batches if there is not enough space on the pan, letting one batch wiltbefore adding the next.
Remove the kale, chilli and garlic mixture from the pan and keep to the side, keeping it as warm as possible.
Add a little more oil to the pan and add the eggs, frying them in the spices until crisp underneath.
Season the eggs with salt and pepper and spoon some of the hot oil over them if you like the yolks a little bit more well done.
Arrange the kale on a warm plate with the fried eggs on top.
Drizzle with the lime, turmeric yoghurt and sprinkle the coriander and the remaining sliced chilli on top.
If you have some leftover kale in your fridge and don’t know what to do with it, thenmaking a pesto is the perfect solution.
We often make a kale pesto with a type of green seaweed called wakame, which goes amazingly with fish but the kale pesto below is more peppery, hearty and warming for the chilly weather this time of year.
This version is also nut-free but you could add some walnuts if you want to. It is perfect when stirred through some linguine. You can add some lardons if you wish but we think the simple combination of pesto and linguine is all you need for a quick, easy, last-minute supper using mostly storecupboard ingredients.
The pesto amount is about double what you would need for the pasta so save some of it in the fridge for other things or you could even pop it in the freezer.
2 big bunches of kale (around 150g) stalks removed and chopped
Roughly 1 spring onion, sliced into rounds
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
2 tbsp of cider vinegar
2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
100g of parmesan, grated
Juice of half lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
120ml of olive oil
In a food processor or using a good stick blender, blitz the kale, spring onion, garlic, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
When completely smooth, stir in the grated parmesan and add more olive oil or lemon juice if needed to loosen it up a little.
Cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
When the pasta is done, drain the water, reserving a cup full of the starchy pasta water, stir the pesto through the linguine with as much pasta water you can without making it watery. Cover with some more grated parmesan and eat.