Secret ingredient: Kale

09:53, Oct 17 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow swears by it, but do you know what to do with kale? Here's how to include it in your cooking (though we don't promise it will turn you into an A-list celebrity with a multi-millionaire musician for a spouse).

WHAT IS KALE?
Kale is a firm, leafy green vegetable related to the cabbage family. There are a number of green and purple coloured varietals; most with a crinkly leaf texture. Kale is hugely nutritional (stacked full of minerals vitamins, and fibre) and as such is often blended into health drinks.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

It's strongly flavoured (some say slightly bitter) because it is stacked full of iron. You don't normally eat the stems, but kale doesn't wilt as much as, say, spinach when cooked. Mature kale needs longer cooking, while young greens are good stir-fried or steamed.

WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
It's not easy to find at the supermarket but you'll have no trouble getting some from your local farmers' market. It grows like topsy in the backyard and loves winter.

WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD?
Chard, spinach or silverbeet.

GOT ANY GOOD RECIPES USING IT?
This is an adaptable salad in that you can leave out the bacon, substitute other nuts for walnuts and use another cheese such as (grilled) haloumi instead of feta.

KALE SALAD WITH BEETROOT, FETA, WALNUTS AND BACON

3 small beetroot

30ml oil for frying

150g walnut pieces

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150g bacon bits (optional)

200g fresh kale

250g feta cheese, broken into chunks

Vinaigrette:
60ml olive oil

20ml lemon juice

a little crushed garlic

grated lemon zest

Boil the beetroot in their skins until tender. Cool, then rub off skins. Cut into quarters and stir-fry in a little of the oil for a few minutes until slightly crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Stir-fry the walnuts until lightly coloured and set aside. Lastly pan-fry the bacon, if using.

Wash and dry the kale, de-stem, shred by hand and stir-fry in a little oil until slightly wilted.

Combine the ingredients for the dressing and mix well. Gently toss the dressing through the prepared salad ingredients and scatter the feta cheese over the top. Serves four.

Alan Titchall is a member of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers and is the editor of Foodstyle magazine.

Is there an ingredient you're confused by? Send us an email - be sure to put Secret Ingredient in the subject line - and we'll investigate it for you.

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