1 Nov 2009

Coming to terms with kale

It is dark and pouring with rain. Above the clouds the moon glows like a nuclear pearl.

Now that we have landed on 1 November, it is official. The long, dark days are no longer approaching; they are here. No more fresh strawberries or peas, no more bags of soft butter lettuce from the farmers’ market.

Sure, you can dodge around the inevitable by heading towards the glut of root vegetables now available. Parsnips, Potatoes, Carrots, Turnips - all that starchy goodness waiting to be roasted, mashed or stewed.

But there is no ignoring the green monster forever. The vegetable than can strike even greater fear into the hearts of children now that it has been dubbed a “superfood.”

That’s right - it’s KALE.

Its ancestry is a wild cabbage in Asia, and is thought to have been brought to Europe by the Celts. Before the potato arrived in Scotland in the 18th century, you can imagine just how important kale was. Even in the 1800s the word “kail” was a generic term for dinner in Scots dialect. People grew it, stored it through the winter, and even fed it to the livestock. If there was no kale to be had, there really was nothing left.

In Scotland, kale is abundant and cheap. It can stand up to rain, frost (it even gets sweeter after it has been through a frost - how thoughtful), and half-frozen earth. On top of this it contains beta-carotene, Vitamin A, C, and K as well as minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, and calcium to name a few. It is even a good source of protein!

I admit I have had a hard time coming to love kale. I tried steaming it and stir-frying it, but I just couldn’t get past the tough texture and the lingering bitterness. Many people cook the hell out of it and eat it with lashings of butter and salt, but for me that defeats the purpose of something so highly beneficial.

However, I have found a way to way to cook kale that I absolutely love.

I bake it.

First you need some cut up curly kale. Get rid of those stems - juice them or feed them to someone’s pig because it’s like chewing on the encrusted underbelly of a combine harvester. Then you need a bit of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Careful not to over-salt!

Toss it all together in a bowl, then spread onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350 oven (gas mark 4) for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. You’ll have to keep an eye on it and flip the pieces a few times.



I’m telling you, it’s tastier than popcorn and about a thousand times better for you. If you like the deep-fried crispy seaweed you can get in Chinese restaurants, this is a perfect substitute. Best eaten straight away to get the best crunch factor, but you can pack it up for a lunchtime snack as well.

Thanks for joining me on yet another Scottish culinary adventure. Carol has asked whether I will be making a Scottish trifle and the answer is yes, I do have a recipe for such a creation. Sometime this month hopefully but if not it will make the perfect Christmas treat for the manboy and I. In the New Year I also hope to make the infamous and staggeringly rich Orkney Fudge Cheesecake.

Finally, hello (*waves frantically*) to the new people in the wee followers box! I don’t know where you’ve come from but I think you’re just super.

Welcoming the dark season with you all,


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