Kale Pesto

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Kale has had some brilliant press lately as a cure-all superfood.  Whoever does its PR deserves one hellova pat on the back.  I mean, it’s a cabbage.  And although delicious, who ever thought that a cabbage could have so much appeal?  Yet somehow kale is everywhere now- in juices, salads, stews and even crisps.  A fad, perhaps, but this leafy veg actually deserves it’s moment in the limelight- it’s full of beta carotene, Vit C, K and calcium.  It has a gorgeous, earthy taste and is genuinely versatile- steam it, bake it, have it stir fried, boiled, juiced or massage it (really) with some olive oil, lime juice and salt for a few minutes to tenderise it, then add pine nuts and cranberries for a salad worthy of a Californian health fanatic. 

I’m putting my two cents in with my  recipe for Kale pesto.  My take has chilli and rosemary in it, for extra punch.  I also bake the garlic and chilli in the oven first as I find this adds a lovely smoky flavour.  This recipe makes a large amount- it should last you all week.  Have it with pasta, gnocchi, drizzled on baked aubergine, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, mixed with a little water for a salad dressing, spread on toasted bread or a homemade pizza, in sandwiches, mixed with mince and made into burgers, stirred through peas with a little goats cheese, in a potato salad, as a dip, dolloped on soup, with white beans, lamb, fish, chicken or swirled through mash.  Your pick.

Frequent readers of this blog (all two of you) will note that there’s been a small change to the way I write recipes- I’ve now added imperial measurements, which I hope will be useful.  

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Kale Pesto

You will need:
200g/7oz kale (approx 1 bag), woody stems removed
4 garlic cloves
2 long red chillies
3 large sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
25g/1/2oz Parmesan, grated
50g/1oz pine nuts, toasted
150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil

Method: 

1.  Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.  Place the garlic cloves (still in their skins) and chilli on a small oven tray and bake for about 20-25 mins, until the chilli is starting to char and the garlic is soft.  Allow to cool completely. 

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the kale and simmer until just tender, about 3-5 min.  Drain very well, squeezing out any excess water.

3. Place the kale, rosemary, lemon zest, Parmesan and pine nuts in the bowl of a mixer (or use a handheld blender).  Squeeze the garlic out of their cloves and add these along with the chillies, removing the seed if you like.  Whizz to a paste, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running.  Add lemon juice to taste and a little water if very thick. 

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Wild Garlic Leaves

I was in Victoria Park village the other week, on the hunt for some polenta for supper.  My travels took me to the delightful Deli Downstairs, which sells a wide range of delectable and interesting produce, not to mention those store cupboard essentials your local supermarket doesn’t stock, but really should (polenta).

Case in point- wild garlic, which can be hard to track down even now that it is in season.  This wonderful herb is actually called Ramsons and isn’t a type of garlic at all, but rather a member of the chive family.  The flavour packs even more of a punch, however, leaning towards an oniony kind of sweetness-  hence, I imagine, its moniker. 

I had a bit of a crisis of confidence when I got home with the stuff.  I put the fragrant leaves in a glass, covered with a sandwich bag and sealed with a rubber band (to keep fresh for longer in the fridge).  Every time I opened the fridge door, those bright green leaves greeted me and asked ‘what are you going to do with me?’  I had no idea.  I scoured the internet and restaurant menus, found all sorts of interesting salads I could toss together or use it to liven up lamb or add it to sautéed mushrooms (on toasted sourdough with a poached egg or some goats cheese) or even stir it, chopped finely, through some of that polenta.

But I didn’t want to do any of those things.  I wanted to give it a starring role.  And so, I resorted to the simplest solution: use it as a basil substitute in pesto.  The resulting jar is now almost finished, having made many a quick-fix lunch.  

Wild Garlic Pesto
(makes one jar)

You will need:
30g wild garlic leaves, stems removed
15g spring onions (I used only the green parts, for a milder flavour)
20g walnuts or pine nuts
75 g olive oil (not extra virgin- too strong), plus a tbsp or two extra
20 g Parmesan, grated
pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

1.  First of all, once you’ve got your wild garlic home, give it a good look over and toss out any crushed, pulpy leaves.  Then give the rest a quick rinse under the tap and leave to dry.  I say this because I didn’t follow this tip and then found a slug amongst the foliage, which had been quite happily munching its way through a few leaves.

2.  Get out your food processor and blitz the leaves with the spring onions, nuts and olive oil until smooth.

3.  Add the sugar, pepper and cheese and blitz again to incorporate all the ingredients.

4.  Pour the pesto into a sterilised jar.  Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the top before sealing.

5.  Serve with pasta or even meats such as lamb, chicken, etc.