I have been assuming for some time now that I hated kale. This stemmed mostly from a lifelong distrust of green things: I refused all green food until the age of eight, and then, tentatively, accepted only peas until I was about seventeen. I’ve got used to asparagus. Green beans and I get along chiefly through a great deal of Parmesan. Brassicas, broadly, can all fuck off. Sprouts, broccoli, cabbage: all the food of health-kicked women in uncomfortable January Lycra pounding gracelessly away on treadmills, Sharon Sandberg murmuring rumours of having it all through cheap headphones. Those women love kale. Those women post about kale on their blogs. I am not one of those women. I hate green things. I hate kale. I hate kale. I hate kale.
Then I went on a bit of a jaunt, and ate some kale. And it was bloody great, and I was forced to retract all my unkind thoughts about green things. We were at the Swan Inn, in Swinbrook- and the chef was magic. In a Farrow and Ball pub, surrounded by Mitfords, in David Cameron’s constituency, I ate garlicky kale with my hands. Big fistfuls of buttery green. I ignored chips in favour of greens. Tory greens, no less. What? I know. Tory greens. Tory greens. Anyway, back in London’s poorest borough, surrounded by soot and kebab shops, I bought some kale and had a bit of a play, and this is what happened.
Remarkable Garlic Kale
Serves 4 with leftovers; 30 mins.
8 cloves garlic
Big knob of salted butter.
Ladle. Big pot with lid. Spatula thing.
The thing about vegetables is that they are always better sodden with butter and garlic; the nice thing about kale is that it doesn’t wilt under this butter and garlic, but retains its essential kale-ness, crisp and green and curling pleasingly at the edges, like old letters. You will need to chop a mountain of garlic. Do not plan to kiss anyone, post this supper. Possibly do not plan to leave the house for some hours. It is worth it, I promise.
Take your mountain of garlic- I used a bulb. It was mad good. A fat bulb of garlic, chopped as finely as you can manage it. Now finer. Finer finer finer, until you have a sort of sea of garlic shreds, rising and falling and clinging to the knife. Splendid.
Fry the pancetta; add a knob of butter, and the heap of fairy garlic. Wash the kale. Don’t dry it. Throw it into the pan. Splash of white wine, if there’s some around, which there probably is. Lid on. Five minutes. Another knob of butter. Stir. Throw in enormous handful of crushed walnuts. Stir. Big bowl. Serve.
How you serve it rather depends on the sort of mood you’re in. Broadly, though, I’d recommend carbohydrates.
You can (which is what we did first) stir it through a simple risotto. The simplest risotto is best here- no Taleggio or chorizo, no prawns, nothing. Just white wine and cream and chicken stock. Rice. Maybe Parmesan.
You know how to make risotto now, I hope: dice onions, finely, and let them colour in some butter. Stir the dry rice through the gold onions; a ladle of stock. A ladle of wine. Let it absorb; repeat, repeat, repeat. Grate in a little Parmesan, stir in a little cream. More wine; stock; repeat, repeat, repeat.
When the rice is five minutes from being soft- it will have a little bite to it- prepare the kale, as above. Stir together. Walnuts. Serve.
The second thing you can do with this kale is stir it through spaghetti: take a frying pan, and make the kale there. Fry off the garlic, et cetera. Two minutes. Stir through a handful of leftover spaghetti and an enormous splash of white wine. A pleasing glug of double cream. A sharp small twist of lemon. Black pepper. Serve, or, more likely, eat with a fork straight from the frying pan, scooping creamy garlic shreds from the bottom of the pan with your hands, buttery, glorious, kale-green spaghetti.
There’s a lunch, and there’s a supper, and there’s kale. Kale is good. Have some kale. Also, the kale counteracts the double cream, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Vitamins. It is science. Science food.