Before the festive eating binge begins I thought I would share a few healthy kale-based treats with you. And yes, I do mean treats: some crisps, a pasta, and a mildly spiced frittata. Other than the kale, it should nearly be store cupboard stuff, so easy and economical: a bonus at this wallet-bleeding time of year.
I don’t know about you, but we are having quite a few pantry and freezer-based meals (and chucking out a not inconsiderable amount of freezer burned mystery-meat type packages), which is kind of fun in a frugal, Little House on the Prairie kind of way. Not quite grinding my own flour but definitely heading in that direction. This is partly to make way for dishes that I am preparing in advance and squirrelling away, but also to make January less painful. For example, tonight I am using black beans from the freezer to make black bean chilli, and this weekend some leftover vegetables will be paired with a dauntingly large frozen haunch of venison to make a ginormous slow-cooked casserole. Even some frozen leftover wine will get added in (I know, who keeps leftover wine in their freezer). My inner pioneer has been unleashed. As I write we are under a severe storm watch (gusts around 130 mph for the next several hours), thus reinforcing my can-do-in-the-kitchen attitude. If you are reading this that means the electricity is still on!
Even in the midst of my store cupboard clear out I am continuing my love-in with black kale. I seem to be able to shoehorn my beloved brassica friend into most things, or at least feature it as as a steamy bit on the side. It co-starred with sweet potato in my last post, and was even in a recent smoothie whizzed up with dark berries (crazy but really yummy. Honest.) But like my beetroot affair, I promise to calm down and get on with other ingredients soon. Very soon. Next time I pop into your inbox you should find some easily made, vaguely nutritious food gifts to share with friends and family. I am no food stylist (as you will have noticed) but hopefully you will try one or two of the ideas, putting your own personal spin on the packaging and presentation. If you do try one – or have your own gift ideas – I’d love to see some photos. I look forward to receiving great ideas from the style and food mavens among you.
As far as the nutrition goes, I have blathered on about kale and cabbage in two previous posts (here and here, the latter talking about bitter greens). In a nutshell, it is a top anti-cancer vegetable, packed to its chlorophylled tips with Vitamins K, C and Beta-carotene. I would encourage everyone to learn to love it and include it in your daily diet in some form or another. This website has comprehensive, ’everything you always wanted to know about kale but were afraid to ask’ type information for the curious among you. Black cabbage/cavolo nero/dinosaur cabbage/Tuscan cabbage – whatever you want to call it – is just one of numerous types of non-headed cabbage, so anytime you see one type in a recipe it can usually be adapted to whatever you can easily purchase or grow. These recipes included. I hope at least one of my recipes piques your interest and gets you buying this fantastically nutritious and surprisingly versatile veggie.
Kale and Italian Sausage Frittata
This is essentially an Italian omelette, made more Italian with fennel-laced sausage. Anyone who is into frugal cooking probably already cooks up frittatas and omelettes on a regular basis – eggs, onions and potatoes being the frugal cook’s best friends. But this recipe is also a good way of making a handful of sausages go a long way, imparting savoury yumminess into a every bite. But without the excessive amounts of saturated fat that comes from eating a couple of sausages. Use the best quality sausages you can get – less weird additives, better meat, more flavour, better value for money overall. And of course use any sausage flavour that you like too – the bolder the better as it will serve as a ‘top note’ in the served dish. Soft cooking chorizo or South African boerewors would be really lovely. Avoid dried or cooked sausages as they are really not moist enough here and have too much in the way of preserving additives to recommend them.
For one large frying-pan size frittata:
3 Italian sausages or similar (approximately 150g in total), skin removed
Bag of kale, ribs/stalks removed and leaves sliced thinly (leftover cooked kale is good)
1 tbsp olive oil
approx 8 new potatoes, boiled, and sliced (peeled if desired) to 1/2 cm or so. If using older, floury potatoes cook with care as they can ‘explode’ when fully cooked. Leftover potatoes are excellent here.
1 large Spanish or other mild onion (or two red onions), peeled, quartered and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pepper/capsicum, cored and chopped
6 large organic eggs
Salt and pepper
Heat a large saute pan and crumble in the skinned sausage; cook until browned. Drain the sausages and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel. At the same time boil or steam the kale for five minutes, then drain and set both kale and sausage aside. You may not need all the kale (depends on bag size) but it is useful to throw in to other dishes (see the linguine recipe).
Over a low to medium heat saute the onion in olive oil for a few minutes, then add the garlic and pepper, sautéing for a further three minutes. Now push the veg aside and add the sliced potatoes, continuing to cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the cooked kale and sausage.
Whisk the eggs with a little salt and pepper before pouring them evenly over the other ingredients. Let the mixture semi-set over a low heat. I usually cover the pan for most of the time. Finish off under a hot grill or, if you are brave, invert the frying pan onto a plate and slide the undercooked side back into the pan to finish. The undermost side will probably be quite golden brown and a bit sticky from the sausage. Let it cool a bit (it doesn’t taste nearly as nice straight from the pan.). This also tastes great cold or gently reheated for breakfast. Serve with a crisp green salad and some nice ‘proper’ bread. Serves 4.
Spiced Kale Chips
The kale chip/crisp idea has been doing the rounds for some time now. And there is a reason for that – they are really good! Might I also add addictive, healthy, easy, quick and cheap. You can’t say that about many snacks, now can you? The only downside is that they are very delicate so cannot sustain a dunking into dip. But, if you are anything like us, you will be eating them straight off the baking tray so their dippability will not be an issue. For that reason I also do not know their keeping quality. This ‘recipe’ is suitable for any kind of kale. And of course you can leave off the za’atar or dukkah and season with good old salt, but I truly think the spicing elevates these super-healthy chips into gourmet territory.
Method: Take a big bag of kale and wash and spin it dry (salad spinner or a twisted tea towel). It seems a bit of a pain but slice out the rib/stalk for each leaf. Now measure out 1 tsp of oil and rub it into the kale with your hands, then cut or tear the soft greens into large bite-sized pieces. It is surprising how far a little oil goes but if you feel you need a little more to get them thoroughly coated add more. Too much oil however will just make the chips oily, so don’t be heavy handed. Spread the kale out onto a baking sheet and sprinkle over either dukkah or za’atar* seasoning. If you have neither perhaps sprinkle over a favourite dried herb mix (something with dried garlic would be lovely). Pop the tray or trays into a 180 C/350 F oven for between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on the type of kale you use (and its water content). The edges should be browned but not burned, so check before 10 minutes. Sprinkle over with salt if you like. Super yummy and bound to convert a few kale phobes. * the seasoning recipes are embedded into main recipes, but they are there.
Linguine with Cavolo Nero Sauce
This is a lightly adapted version of one created by the acclaimed Anglo-Aussie chef, Skye Gyngell. I’ve cut out the butter to keep the dish firmly on the healthy side, but add 40g/2 oz of unsalted butter if you aren’t bothered by the fat content. I promise it is luxurious without. Anchovies are optional but if you skip them perhaps add in some nutritional yeast flakes, dried seaweed (such as wakame), white/blonde miso or even some mashed Kalamata olives to give a savoury tang. I would however like to recommend anchovies as they don’t taste in the least bit fishy here. Quite different to when they are plonked onto a Caesar salad.
1 bunch of cavolo nero (or curly kale)
3 tbsp best extra virgin olive oil
2-3 best quality anchovies in oil (such as Ortiz) – see above for alternatives
3 fat cloves of garlic
juice and zest of 1/2 large lemon (unwaxed)
50g grated Parmesan, pecorino or grana padano cheese, plus extra for serving
Enough uncooked linguine or spaghetti for four, about 115g/4 oz per person for a main course
Cook your chosen pasta until al dente. While it is cooking, make the sauce.
Wash the kale thoroughly, cut out the thick, indigestible ribs/stalks and slice. I stack the kale and then slice crossways into ½ cm ribbons. Boil a pot of water and add in the kale, cooking for five minutes. Remove and drain well. Take half of the kale and put it in a wide serving bowl, popping the rest in a food processor with the oil, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice & zest (butter, if using), and cheese, and pureeing until very smooth. To serve, mix the pasta and sauce in with the kale ribbons. Top with extra grated cheese and add a side of roasted peppers and tomatoes for a colourful and healthy meal. Serves 4
in case you were wondering what nutritional yeast flakes were