As a child, my father had not one, but 3 allotments, which he expected us kids to help out in. Seemed like my whole school holidays were spent at those plots, but I’m sure that can’t be the case. His motto was The Bigger, The Better. This usually meant veg was allowed to keep on growing way past the succulent, young stage, beyond slightly appealing middle age, and well into, frankly, old and stringy. But hey, it was large!
Consequently I bloody hated vegetables for years. Eating spinach in an Indian restuarant at 18 was a revelation – buttery, spicy, smooth and not at all bitter. A world away from the massive veined, tough green sheets dad would bring home from the allotment.
So it was with kale. I’m an adventurous eater, don’t get me wrong (though I will never try fruit bat again. You heard.) but I just couldn’t understand why anyone would willing eat this stuff – unless it was discovered to be a cure for cancer or somesuch. So I happily walked past kale for the next 30 years.
Recently at a market I saw a big basket of some appealing looking greens, and the cheerful stallholder was telling me all about how he’d grown it, it’s semi organic status (not officially organic yet, but well on the way), and, on me asking what sort of cabbage it was, he told me it was kale.
And there it was – it would’ve been rude to walk away at that point, not to mention veggie narrow minded. He’d spent months carefully growing this horrific stuff, and here’s me backing off because of childhood trauma. Perhaps sensing my reluctance (spect he gets that a lot with kale) he launched into a fool proof recipe to get anyone to love it.
And, dear reader, I am about to share this with you. You lucky things.
Take your kale, wash if necessary, and strip the leaves from the tough stalks into bitesize pieces. Discard (ie compost, give to your chickens, bury in the garden, whatever) those stalks. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place kale in a baking tray, season with salt and pepper, and maybe some chilli flakes. Drizzle with good olive oil. Smoosh the oil around to coat – using your hands is best. Bake until completely crisp – perhaps even slightly browned on the edges if need be, but it’s important that it’s crisp. About 10 minutes in my fan forced oven.
Eat immedietely. The closest thing I can compare to this that I can think of is the dish of weird green crispy stuff you got in chinese restaurants in the 80s (maybe this was a UK thing) referred to as seaweed (it wasn’t), but that doesn’t do this justice. Believe it or not, this version is lovely. Really, genuinely lovely.