KALE is a wonderful seasonal vegetable that is incredibly popular at the moment thanks to its nutritional benefits and fashionable ‘super food’ status. Kale adds great texture, colour and flavour to lots of seasonal dishes but I’ll openly admit that I don’t cook with it nearly as often as I should. I’m also a fan of cavolo nero, or black kale, which seems to be much more prevalent in the shops this year.
One of the great things about kale is that it is one of the few green vegetables that is more abundant and flavourful during the winter which makes it a perfect seasonal ingredient. Kale can be added to soups, stews and pasta dishes (mushroom and kale lasagne is a big favourite) or simply blanched or sautéed and served alongside some meat or fish. You could also try making your own kale crisps by roasting it with a little oil and salt or spicy seasoning.
If cooked incorrectly, kale can be quite bitter which often puts people off using it. Its low moisture content means that its needs a longer cooking time than most other leafy greens and should be served soft rather than al dente. It’s also important to look for kale that is a fresh green colour with moist, crisp, unwilted leaves. Young, small-leaved produce tends to be sweeter and more tender but the larger leaves are great in soups and stews. You can also use kale in place of cabbage or spinach – just like my chicken Florentine recipe below which is usually made with spinach.
My version of chicken Florentine is a fantastic way to use fresh kale and it pairs beautifully with the creamy mozzarella and salty Parma ham. Serving it up with a vibrant and sweet roasted pepper puree really turns this dish into something special.
Chicken Florentine with roasted pepper puree
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large mozzarella ball
1 bag fresh kale, washed and any hard stalks removed
4 slices Parma ham
1 red, yellow and orange pepper
1 small bunch of fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200c.
Place the kale in a pan of boiling water and simmer for 6-8 minutes until tender. Drain well, making sure no excess water remains.
Place the cooked kale into a bowl and crumble in the mozzarella. Season generously and mix.
Slice each breast down the middle (but not all the way through) to butterfly the chicken. Open out and flatten slightly. Divide the kale mixture between each breast and roll the chicken around it before wrapping each breast in 2 slices of the Parma ham. Seal the meat in a hot pan before roasting in the oven for 30 minutes.
Roasted Pepper Puree:
Cut each pepper in half and de-seed. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until they start to brown. Once cooked use a sharp knife to peel off the skin and blitz in a blender with a little olive oil and basil to create a smooth puree. Add a little puree to each plate and sit each chicken breast on top. Serve with rice or a crisp green salad.