Susan Jane Murray: Kale 'n' hearty
Turn over a new leaf, says Susan Jane Murray, and harness the taste and nutritional benefits of kale crisps
Kale is basically a headless cabbage. No doubt you've seen Jamie cooking with it on TV, or with its black brother, the cavolo nero. Its leaves are like gargantuan parsley, and they are straight from a Roald Dahl book. Kale sounds very exciting, but in fact, it's about as exotic as a highland bog. Kale has always been there, but no one quite knows what to do with it.
Kale is inexpensive, easy to grow, easy to store, and really flavoursome. I scour menus for it, such is my newfound fondness for this green leafy brassica. Kale's nutritional output is prodigious. It has a team of bone-building nutrients such as calcium, vitamin K and sulfur, all well-known allies against degenerative osteo conditions. Lutein and zeaxanthin are fancy carotenoids that pharmaceutical companies try to synthesise in laboratories and pack in tablet form to support eye health. No need to waste your money on these if you're regularly scoffing kale. A trend for juicing kale has taken wings in Los Angeles, which probably proves considerably cheaper than a consultation with an eminent eye specialist.
Kale also has potassium for heart health and hangovers, vitamin A for your body's artillery, iron for healthy blood, vitamin C to help your skin glow, and plenty of folate for growing children. It's the Mother Teresa of the dinner plate. Broccoli would blush in its presence.
How about giving this recipe a go? Eating foods that promote good health will have you on your tippy toes. Eating foods that promote poor health will have you on your knees. It's as simple as that.
Nine batches of kale crisps were made this week, with over 40 gastro guineas recruited. My taste buds had to be validated. After all, kale is a green leafy vegetable -- the kind that tends to repel even the intrepid herbivores among us. Suddenly it was casting a spell upon rambling little fingers.
Not one of my kitchen guineas gagged when I unveiled the crisps' core ingredient. A couple of gasps could be heard, and a few silent screams. The under-10 populace thought these crisps were a really naughty snack. One plate later, they had wolfed more green veggies than they had in the whole of last year.
There are a couple of variations you could try. Below is the most basic and tastiest of them all. Nutritional yeast flakes have an umami buzz. It's cheese to vegans, and replete with that elusive vitamin, B12. If your local health-food store is out of it, use garlic granules and smoked paprika instead. And maybe a warm poached egg on top. With a runny yolk. And buckwheat pancakes. Oh, good God.
You will need:
2 good handfuls of curly kale, bone-dry
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (I used Marigold Engevita flakes)
Preheat oven to 180 C (fan oven 160 C), 350 F, Gas 4. Flatten the dry, curly kale leaves and use the point of a knife to remove the tough centre ribs. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Using your hands, massage extra virgin olive oil into each leaf. Spread across a sheet of tinfoil. Don't worry about flattening the leaves out. They're better bunched up. Bake on a tray for 8-12 minutes. Check after six minutes, and toss them to prevent charring.
Remove the crisps from oven and sprinkle the nutritional yeast flakes over the now-crispy kale. Scoff the kale crips while they are warm.
I'm not sure if crispy kale keeps in a sealed container. They never get that far.