Kale, how did I miss you?

Kale with Pasta Chilli and GarlicThere are some ingredients that I genuinely get excited about cooking and eating. When I considered the packet of kale I had bought earlier on Friday and pondered how I might prepare it I was clear that this was not one of them.

My introduction to kale as a child was not a good one. In fact, you could liken it to a head-on collision as an appetiser to the thrills of car travel. It was not at home (my Mum bears no blame whatsoever) and to this day I’m not quite sure what had taken place between the point it left the greengrocers and when it arrived on my plate. What I can be sure of is that I did not enjoy the result.

You may well be asking why on earth did I go and buy some now? I was asking myself much the same question right up to the point we sat down to eat. But, what I tasted was nothing like my memories of childhood. The bitter taste was replaced by something quite sweet, the khaki hue replaced with vibrant green. How on earth had I spent the last 25 years missing one of the very best vegetables I’ve ever tasted?

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that kale and I have some catching up to do, and the combining it with pasta and some spice is a really quick and easy way to do it. This recipe for kale with pasta, garlic and chilli is incredibly versatile and can be adjusted to taste and whatever you have to hand. We used penne, but I reckon it would work just as well with tagliatelle or even gnocchi. Adding the kale to the pasta water for the last couple of minutes of cooking saves on washing up, but we will probably steam it above, or in a separate pan next time we cook the dish as it preserves the nutrients better.

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion finely sliced
300g dried penne pasta
200g kale, shredded and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes
Parmesan cheese and black pepper to serve

Method
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion on a low heat until it’s soft and translucent. Then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a while longer so the onion starts to caramelise.
2. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Either add the kale for the last couple of minutes (we liked it with some bite but you could give it longer) or steam it for 3-4 mins.
3. When the pasta and kale have finished cooking, take the pan with the onions off the heat then stir in the pasta and kale to spread the flavours evenly. Season to taste if it needs it.
4. Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese (or an equivalent) and black pepper to serve.

Eat your greens!

kale

Yesterday morning brought a long overdue visit to the doctors. For ages I’ve not felt like I’ve been firing on all cylinders, so following some strong encouragement from my better half (or as the kids put it “Dad, you just got told!”) I made an appointment.

I’d really felt like this before doing meat from my diet, and in many ways I’ve actually felt more healthy. Nonetheless I’m also well aware of the need to ensure that protein, minerals and vitamins normally gained through eating meat are found elsewhere.

The Doctor was completely unphased about my choice to go vegetarian, but quizzed me about what I was actually eating. Amongst my pride at mastering a wide range of dishes knew I was vulnerable and it wasn’t long before the question was posed ‘and what about greens?’.

There was no escape.

I knew full well, but had avoided the fact that greens (i.e. spring greens, kale, spinach and broccoli) are very high in vitamin A and crucially Iron so are really essential components of a vegetarian diet.

My creativity in the kitchen has its limits. How to take the dark leaves of spring greens and particularly kale and make them edible, let alone enjoyable, I thought was simply beyond me. Kale was the biggest mountain to climb, since my only memory of it was as a bitter mound that had been boiled to oblivion.

I tried to dodge the question, responding weakly ‘I eat plenty of beans and lentils (which have some iron)’. The doctor was unmoved. ‘No, greens!’.

I was defeated, and knew I had to do something about it as the return visit to collect my blood test results would require a progress report. So I decided to face my fear, and went to buy a pack of kale.

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