Cavalo Nero

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Black cabbage to you! or Tuscan kale. Either way it has long stemmed leaves and a beautiful range of colours from black to deep dark green. It has a dense flavour – lots of iron. I love it. So do the caterpillars in my garden – it attracts them like a bee to honey. My favourite way to eat it is with pasta. any pasta. Yes I know I have said on these pages that I don’t crave pasta. But with cavalo nero I make an exception. So gather your ingredients. This is done and dusted, pan to plate in less than 15 minutes. Proportions here are for two. Lay the table now, and pour the wine.

Fill your kettle and bring to the boil. Meanwhile take your cavalo nero and wash it (just checking for caterpillars here). Split the stems and cut out the bottom bit if they are a bit thick. Then pile the leaves atop one another so you have a stack – maybe eight or ten leaves depending on the length. Roll them up length ways and then starting from the top, finely slice from top to bottom. Posh chefs call this a chiffonade
By now the water will have boiled. Pour into a large saucepan and add salt. Never, never cook pasta without salt. To do so is like cooking bread without salt. Or eating roast potatoes without salt. Yuk. Add enough pasta for two – penne, conchiglie, orchiette, or linguine, whatever takes your fancy – and cook till just underdone.

Meanwhile add plenty of excellent olive oil to a shallow pan, add the zest of half a lemon and two grated garlic cloves. Keep it moving so the garlic doesn’t frazzle. Then add the cavolo nero and 30ml water from the pasta pot. Stir it round, add a little salt, then clamp on the lid, shake it around a bit and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until just al dente. Your pasta should be ready, so drain it and leave in the colander over the saucepan, reserving about 50ml of the cooking water. Pour 25ml olive oil over the pasta and a good grind of black pepper. Lift the lid and test the greens. They should still be bright green, but cooked, and there should only be a speck of water left in the pan. Now add a large handful of grated parmesan to the greens, about 50ml single cream or creme fraiche, then the pasta and the reserved cooking water. Toss with two large forks until all the ingredients are combined. You should have a bright green mixture of cavolo nero, garlic, parmesan and pasta coated with a creamy sauce. Sometimes I add some chopped basil at this stage. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice and grate more parmesan on the top and lots of black pepper. Ready to eat. You can use ordinary garden kale in this way, also.

Post script: the veggiebox has twice had those purple globed vegetables that look like purple-all-over turnips. I have to reveal that I detest turnip. They are the devil’s food. Many friends of mine love them. I do not. If they remain ubiquitous next week, I shall be forced to invent a recipe for them, as I must admit that I have none in my repertoire. If you have a favourite turnip recipe, let me know. You could write a guest blog on turnips, just for fun!

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