THE recent popularity of kale can be credited to one incredibly successful PR campaign run by the American Kale Association, though the fact that such an organisation exists is a good start.
The curly green is high in vitamins A, C, and K, has lots of iron, fibre and calcium and can easily be baked into chips, massaged with oil for a salad, or thrown into a smoothie.
Taking it down a peg or two, as we don’t want it to be getting notions about itself, kale is a member of the brassica family and is therefore a cabbage.
Cabbage — the thing we turned our noses up as kids, overcooked in sludgy water beside a hunk of ham — is now the biggest selling green on the planet, a fact that reflects it’s sexy superfood status.
Kale has long been grown in this country and does very well too. Used with mashed potatoes in delicious colcannon, to the more recently grown cavalo nero, a long, dark green leaf and purplish ragged jack, kale comes in many guises.
It’s easy to grow and a cut-and-come-again variety of plant which means you can snip off leaves as they mature and the plant will keep growing for months.
Health foodies go nuts for kale chips and kale salads, as some varieties are tender enough to be eaten raw.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy cavalo nero is to simply steam it in a colander over boiling water for five minutes, this retains its plump freshness and a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil give it extra oomph. You can also thrown a hand-full into a minestrone or an omelette.
For now, impress your friends after your workout with a package, preferably from recycled paper, of kale chips. Here are two basic recipes to get you started.
Ingredients: 1 head kale or 250g bag, washed and dried with the ribs removed 2 tblsp olive oil 1 tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 5
Cut the kale into pieces of about 2 inches long, in a large bowl drizzle over some olive oil, just enough to barely cover it and give it a quick massage to make sure it’s evenly coated.
Get 1 or 2 roasting trays, depending on how much kale you are cooking, spread the kale out on the trays, it shouldn’t overlap. Sprinkle over the sea salt
Bake the kale in the oven for 20 minutes until it’s crisp and crunchy.
For a variation on this great snack, sprinkle over a little chili flakes or a dash of tamari before it goes in the oven.
Kale Salad with Avocado
If there’s one thing trendier than kale it’s avocado. I love these green goddesses myself and find them fantastic if I’m hit by a sudden hunger.
It’s handy to have a salad recipe that gives you something you can leave in the fridge for a couple of days that actually gets better over time.
Massaging the kale reduces its tough chewiness so that this is essentially a raw food salad and bursting with fresh flavours and nutrients.
This recipe is a guideline — add or subtract your favourite ingredients as you like.
½lb kale, any variety, with ribs removed washed and dried and torn into pieces 1 tsp sea salt 4 tblsp soy sauce or tamari 4 tblsp crunchy peanut butter 1 tblsp sesame seeds, toasted Avocado to serve Cayenne pepper to serve 1 lemon Olive oil
In a large bowl massage the kale with the sea salt for about five minutes and then leave it at room temperature for half an hour at least for it to soften.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix up the soy sauce or tamari with the peanut butter until it’s well combined, and pour this over the kale and toss well to coat the leaves.
To toast the sesame seeds, toast on a dry frying pan on a medium heat for a minute or two and shake the pan around to make sure they don’t burn, Once they have all changed colour, turn them out onto a cold plate.
You can store these in a jar to use as you like.
Rinse the kale of the excess salt and give it a good spin in a salad spinner.
To serve, divide the kale between plates and slice an avocado and arrange it on top, squeeze over some lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil with a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper and tuck in.
The kale mix will keep for a couple of day, covered in the fridge.
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