Jamie’s seasonal pick this week is that beautiful member of the brassica family, kale.
Curly kale is the most abundant form of this versatile veggie, but Jamie will no doubt agree that cavalo nero (Italian for black kale) is the standout variety. Really though, all varieties of kale are fantastic ingredients.
In particular, this leafy green makes the most amazing soups, including two of the most famous from Europe. Jamie’s ribollita, an Italian classic, contains a good amount of black kale, giving the soup a really filling and warming quality without the need for too many starchy potatoes to thicken it.
Kale is also the main ingredient for the Portuguese favourite, caldo verde, a deep-green soup of black kale and potatoes that often hides a cheeky slice of chorizo in the bottom for added spice and texture.
It’s not just for cooking either: raw kale juice is the latest “super-food” to get the celebrity treatment, with healthy eating A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow extolling its virtues. On its own, kale juice tastes fairly unremarkable, but when blended in your juicer or extractor with bright, zingy ingredients such as fresh ginger, apples, lemons, cucumbers and celery, it transforms into a delicious drink. Not only that, but the nutrients contained within a kale juice are seriously good for you.
For a really simple way of getting the best flavour out of this glorious vegetable, I heartily suggest trying my super-quick soup that I serve to my family before Christmas dinner. Simply fry a finely chopped white onion in a large saucepan with a touch of olive oil until transparent. Add a crushed clove of garlic and two handfuls of chopped kale with the really tough woody bits of stem taken off. Stir for a couple of minutes before adding a pint of vegetable stock and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, turn off heat and leave it to cool for 10 minutes before blitzing with a hand blender. To serve, add a spoonful of yogurt or reduced-fat soured cream, and a grating of nutmeg on top.
There you have it, this humble vegetable is so much more than a token bit of green on your plate, it’s a versatile and virtuous ingredient for a healthier lifestyle – so all hail the mighty kale. Good choice, Jamie!