Leafy green vegetables are bursting with all the ingredients for a healthy mind and body. Here are three delicious ways to fit them into your diet
We are always being told to eat our greens, but in order to keep up really good and healthy eating habits, our food needs to be delicious as well. Leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre that are thought to really help our bodies and our minds.
The spinach and rosemary soup, below, is one of my favourites from my book Soup Broth Bread, and it is a recipe we’ve been making at Ballymaloe for many years. I love the rich, flavour of the verdant spinach, which works so well with the rosemary — if you wish, you could also use kale or chard in place of the spinach.
To prevent this or any green soup losing its great colour and flavour, it’s important to reheat it without the lid on, and also to avoid prolonged simmering. To serve the soup broth-style, increase the stock to 750ml, omit the milk and cream, and do not blend it.
An indulgently green gratin such as the cheesy kale gratin recipe featured below is a serious treat, served with meat, fish or roasted root veggies. It’s a good opportunity to grate and use up bits of leftover cheese, but beware of using too much blue cheese as the flavour can be too strong.
The gratin can be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge for 24 hours, or it can be frozen for up to three months.
One green vegetable that so often disappoints is broccoli. In this country, it’s often boiled for too long in under-salted water, a far cry from how it’s usually cooked in Italy. In the broccoli with chilli, fennel and garlic recipe, also below, the marriage of sweet anise-tasting fennel seeds, fiery hot chilli and extra-virgin olive oil is a classic southern Italian match made in heaven that works so well with broccoli.
Now that’s some gorgeous green goodness to give you a bit of get up and go.
You will need:
110g peeled and chopped onions
150g peeled and chopped potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
600ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
275g chopped spinach (stalks removed before weighing, see Rachel Recommends, below)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
600ml milk, or 500ml milk and 100ml cream
1 Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and the chopped potatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir, and cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper and the saucepan lid. Turn the heat down to low and gently sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring every now and again.
2 After 10 minutes, pour the chicken stock or vegetable stock, whichever you are using, into the saucepan, turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil. Check that the potatoes
and onions are tender. If not, cook them for a couple of minutes longer.
3 Tip in the chopped spinach, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, uncovered, over a high heat for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach is just cooked. As soon as the spinach is cooked, add the chopped rosemary and take the pot off the heat.
4 Add the milk, or the milk and cream mixture, whichever you are using, and blend the soup straight away to preserve the lovely fresh green colour of the spinach. Taste for seasoning and serve, or reheat when ready to serve.
I normally use large-leaved perpetual spinach for the spinach and rosemary soup recipe, above. However, if you’re using baby spinach, then there’s no need to destalk it.
The spinach and rosemary soup freezes really well. I like to freeze it in small batches so that I’m never short of a deliciously warming bowl of soup at a moment’s notice.
You will need:
1 teaspoon salt
400g curly kale, thickly shredded, stalks removed (weigh after stalks are removed)
For the cheesy sauce, you will need:
25g plain flour
250g Cheddar, Gruyère or mixed leftover cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 You will also need an ovenproof dish or gratin dish approximately 12cm x 20cm.
2 Place a large pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt on a high heat and bring to the boil. When boiling, add the shredded kale. Cook it for just a couple of minutes until it is almost tender, then drain it and squeeze out all the excess water. Put it in an ovenproof dish.
3 To make the sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan, then add the plain flour and cook for 1 minute until bubbling. Then, using a whisk, add the milk. Keep whisking and bring to the boil. Continue to boil the sauce for another couple of minutes until it is thickened.
4 Remove the pot from the heat, then add 125g of the grated cheese and the Dijon mustard. Season to taste with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5 Pour the cheese sauce over the kale in the ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the remaining 125g of grated cheese.
6 When you’re ready to reheat the gratin, preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas 6 and bake it for 20-25 minutes until it is bubbling and golden.
You will need:
1 head of broccoli
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely grated
Large pinch of chilli flakes
½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
½ teaspoon crushed or ground fennel seeds
1 First, prepare the broccoli. Trim just ½cm from the base of the stalk and discard. Cut off the stalk and, using a knife or potato peeler, remove the thick outer layer, which you can also discard. Cut the peeled stalk into 1cm pieces and set them aside.
2 Divide the head of broccoli into bite-size florets by cutting from the base to keep the natural floret shapes. Add to the stalk pieces.
3 Put the water and the salt in a saucepan and place it over over a high heat. Bring to the boil, then add the broccoli stalks and the florets, and cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil for just 3-4 minutes, until they are almost tender. Drain off the water while the broccoli still has a bite.
4 Place the empty saucepan that you just used to cook your broccoli on a high heat again.
5 Add the extra-virgin olive oil and allow it to heat up. Now add in the finely crushed or finely grated garlic, whichever you’re using, the chilli flakes, the finely chopped rosemary and the crushed or ground fennel seeds, whichever you’re using. Stir in the pan for 10 seconds, then add the drained, cooked broccoli. Cook everything together for a couple of minutes and then serve in a warm bowl.
6 If you want to prepare some of this in advance, you can boil the broccoli, then drain it and set it aside until you’re ready to finish the dish.
Spinach and rosemary soup recipe extracted from ‘Soup Broth Bread’ by Rachel Allen, with photography by Maja Smend and Joanne Murphy, published by Michael Joseph, at £22