Wednesday 21 February 2018

Making friends with trendy kale

Susan Jane White shares her tips and tricks to make kale tolerable.

"I'm still trying to make friends with this super-veg," writes Susan Jane.
Susan Jane transforms boring kale into a scrumptious pesto using Desmond and Gabriel cheese
Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Kale is unforgivably trendy.

During last year's London Fashion Week, kale ice pops were on the menu. I imagine one levitates with virtuousness after horsing into such a lolly. Every glossy mag on the circuit seems to have a kale smoothie recipe by an equally glossy celebrity. I fear what's next. Cauliflower juice?

Truth is, kale is almost celestial. One leaf of this super-green would have an acre of broccoli blushing. For a start, it has more antioxidants than the much-coveted blueberry. We like antioxidants for their moves against damaging free radicals loitering in our system.

Gram-for-gram, kale has almost twice the vitamin C of an orange. This vitamin is hailed as our skin's greatest ally against ageing (and dodgy office bugs). Kale's stock of iron is even higher than spinach – bad luck, Popeye.

I'm still trying to make friends with this super-veg. It's not easy. But this kale pesto is one way it canters onto our dinner table. We also love roasting the leaves on high for 8 minutes, and dusting with sea salt, cumin and garlic granules. It's worthy of flirting with the next time a DVD night hollers.

Susan Jane transforms boring kale into a scrumptious pesto using Desmond and Gabriel cheese

Kale Pesto
Makes approximately 300ml (10½oz).

This recipe comes from A Change of Appetite: Where Delicious meets Healthy, Diana Henry's accidental pilgrimage to the rich lands of nutrients and superfoods. I love it so much, I keep it under my pillow (the book, not the pesto). We regularly serve kale pesto tumbled through baby potatoes, but Diana recommends wholewheat linguine. For a double dose of greens, she adds steamed broccoli, too. Expect a cavalry of antioxidants to charge through your veins.

You will need:

300g (10oz) Irish kale

25g (1oz) butter

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

10g (¼oz) flat-leaf parsley

2 good-quality anchovies, drained of oil

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Big pinch of chilli flakes

Wash the kale well, and strip the leaves from the tough stalks. Toss the stems on to the compost, or juice them with apples and lemon for a "detox grenade". Stop sniggering, I'm almost serious.

Dry the bunched leaves thoroughly. I use a salad spinner for 2 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, drop the leaves in and cook them for 5 minutes.

Strain the hot water and transfer the cooked kale to an ice bath –this will keep its neon-green glow and stop it from cooking any further. Drain well.

Put the chilled, cooked kale into a food processor with the butter, the extra-virgin olive oil, the flat-leaf parsley, the anchovies, the chopped garlic, the grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, whichever you're using, and the chilli flakes. Pulse for 5-10 seconds, until you reach your desired consistency.

You don't want a puree – you're aiming for flecks of kale and anchovy.

I double the quantity of anchovies when I'm making this, but I don't think Diana shares my fetish for these chaps. You might not, either.

Taste, and air punch. I used Desmond and Gabriel cheese, which are made in Schull, Co Cork, by Bill Hogan (who happens to be a former employee of Martin Luther King. You like him already, right?) Hogan is an outrageously talented artisan and cheese-maker. His produce is like aged Irish Parmesan. This kale pesto is part shrine to Hogan, part shrine to Henry.

Bring it into the office with you and let everyone rub your halo.

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