I’ve mentioned in a previous post just how much I enjoy kale, although I also acknowledge that its relatively strong taste isn’t to everyone’s liking. But it’s a robust and versatile vegetable that can take a lot of flavour, and it is worth trying with a range of ingredients and in a variety of dishes, experimenting to see which ones you prefer.
Working with kale in this way – in terms of both cooking methods and complementary flavours – can be especially important with older and / or tougher plants which are noticeably more bitter than smaller, softer and younger leaves. So, for example, whilst I would never use those tougher leaves in a salad (especially raw), they do go exceptionally well with bacon, something that kale has in common with most other kinds of cabbage. And it tastes fabulous when it’s par-boiled – it’s almost always a good idea to do this first – before being quickly stir-fried with some oil, garlic and chorizo (or other form of cured pork).
It has also become popular to make oven-baked kale ‘chips’, something that I finally got round to doing myself just a couple of weeks ago. As well as being relatively straight-forward to make – the trick is not to let them burn towards the end of the cooking time – they really do taste very good, and I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed them.
All you need is some kale (as much as you want to make chips from), some olive oil and sea salt, although it’s fun to add some punch with an additional flavour. My favourite has been to sprinkle some ground chipotle chile over the kale before baking it, but adding a teaspoon of lemon zest also works well. I definitely prefer to eat them fresh from the oven, although they can be eaten cold as well. And all you need to do is…
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas mark 4.
- Wash and shred your kale (if it’s old and / or tough then you should remove the leaves from the stem first)
- Spread on a single layer on a baking tray
- Drizzle over some olive oil and mix well so that the kale is coated
- Sprinkle with sea salt and your chili powder or lemon zest (or whatever else you fancy)
- Put in the oven for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that they don’t burn
It’s kale’s compatibility with chili – as well as ginger – that forms the basis for the recipe below. It’s another simple dish that’s perfect for a week-day meal, which (even if you leave the beef to marinade for 20 minutes or so), can be made in just over half an hour.
I also find that you really don’t need much beef in a stir-fry, and a little can go a surprisingly long way when it’s cooked with ingredients that have such intense flavours as these. It’s best served piping hot, in bowls that have been warmed first.
Recipe: Stir-fried Beef with Kale and Red Bell Pepper
250g / 9 oz lean beef, cut into thin strips
200g / 7 oz kale, tough stems trimmed and leaves shredded
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
For the marinade:
1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp root ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1tbsp soft brown sugar
Combine the ingredients for the marinade, and pour the mixture over the strips of beef. Leave to marinade – at least for 20 minutes, but a couple of hours would be better if there’s time.
Put the kale in a colander and pour a kettleful of boiling water over to wilt it. Leave to drain.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying-pan over a high heat.
Add the red bell pepper and stir-fry for five minutes or so, until it’s starting to colour.
Drain the beef from its marinade, reserving the marinade.
Pat the beef with kitchen towel so that it’s fairly dry.
Add to the pepper in the wok and stir-fry for about two minutes more, until the beef is browned all over.
Add the kale and the reserved marinade juices, continuing to stir-fry for another two minutes or so.
Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top, and serve with rice or noodles.