Sunday, 13 December 2009

Greens for Tea.

I love green - the colour.  I like to wear it and I like it around me.  I never used to when I was a kid and you had to pick a favourite colour, I used to say there was too much of it and that it was boring, but I have updated my views on a few things since the age of seven and this is one of them.

I also like most green food.  At least the kind that's supposed to be green.  I'd be worried about green meat.  So should you be.  I virtually never make salad, because lettuce is dull and I don't have the patience or the appetite to use many varieties in one bowl because then it goes on for ages.  Cabbage, however, in every single form available, I adore.  This morning, I went to the St Albans Farmers' Market, which I haven't done in a serious way I think at all.  I wanted to see what was there and ideally buy some good quality high welfare meat.  I glanced at the veg stall without much expectation, and picked up the above beautiful bunch.  It's cavolo nero, Italian 'black cabbage', which I've read about a number of times as supposed to be the sort of kale most worth looking for.  I don't think I've ever actually eaten it, but I knew I ought to, as a big green stuff fan.  The leaves are long and pointed, with a prominent rib down each.  It looks a little like savoy cabbage but because it doesn't have a core it doesn't have tough outer leaves and a bitter centre to worry about.  At 90p a bunch, it looked like a good idea.

But then, what to do with it?  It was clearly very fresh, the leaves squeaked and were almost tacky to the touch, and the whole bunch was pert and solid and didn't wave about when I carried it, and it was an incredible colour - more navy blue than any shade of green, under the bloom.  I extracted about 10 spear-leaves and removed the thick rib from the centre of each one.  I sliced up an inch of French saucisson sec that I happened to have (a rasher or two of bacon would have done just as well) and fried it in a glug or two of olive oil with a crumbled (homegrown, home-dried!) chilli.  When it was nearly crispy, I stuck in a sliced clove of garlic until faintly golden.  I hoicked out the aromatics and added the well washed and still damp greens sliced crosswise into inch sections, along with a sprinkle of salt.  Once the pieces were all covered in flavoured oil, I covered the lot with a metal plate and added a little water around the edges.  After about 2 minutes, I pulled the lid off and added back the sausage and the garlic slices.

Another slug of better olive oil, some salt and pepper, a grating of parmesan, a glass of white wine on the side and this was PROPER food.  You could leave out the pork and up the parmesan and it would still be good if you wanted to edge further in a vegetarian direction (you'd need veggie parmesan for purists).  I debated a drop of lemon juice but that makes green things yellow, even if they taste good that way.  The whole thing would be nearly as good with savoy cabbage but the risk of it being tough might be distinct.  Cook for longer.  This was fresh and crisp without being hard to chew in any way.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to make food that's not silly just for myself after all.  Hope.

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