I was not one of the first to adopt kale. With every bite I felt like the sturdy, spiky leaf was telling me it shouldn’t be eaten. But black kale, or cavolo nero, is a different beast. The leaves resemble the frosted plumes of an exotic bird and blend into a silky, creamy, bittersweet pool. It works great tempered with a nutty and chewy grain like spelled and just a whisper of white wine, chili and fennel. After all these years I’m still a kale fanatic, but for cavolo nero I would run several miles of countryside.
Cavolo nero with spelled and walnuts
This combination of spelled and greens was inspired by a fantastic nettle and spelled dish prepared by Matt Smith while working at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, Cornwall; he now cooks just down the street at the Tolcarne Inn in Newlyn. You will need a blender to do this.
Preperation 5 minutes
to cook 50 minutes
400g black cavolo
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus an extra to finish
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp of fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
tsp chilli flakes
1 glass (175 ml) dry white wine
250g pearl spelled – I like Sharpham Park
750 ml vegetable broth
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt, plus a pinch to finish
1 large handful (75g) shelled walnuts, decorate
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Strip the leaves of cavolo nero by firmly holding the base of each stem with one hand and pushing its length with the other, tearing off the leaves. Compost the stems.
Add the leaves handful by handful to the boiling water and simmer for five minutes (you will probably need to continue pricking them), then drain and wash in cold water until they are cold enough to be used. handled. Squeeze out as much of the excess water as possible from the cavolo nero, then roughly chop the leaves and put them in a blender. Add 150 ml of water and reduce to a thick puree.
Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the onion and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes, until tender and starting. love. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes and cook for two minutes. Pour in the wine, let it boil for a few minutes, then add the spelled and about a quarter of the broth. Once the liquid has been absorbed or starts to run out, add a third of the remaining broth, letting it absorb little by little, and repeat until the spelled is tender – it took me about 20 minutes in all. Add the blitzed cavolo nero mixture and season with salt, stir, simmer for five minutes, then remove from the heat.
Put the nuts in a clean towel and crush them with a rolling pin until they are coarsely crushed (or roughly chop them). Put a tablespoon of oil in a small pan over medium to high heat and, when hot, add the nuts and a pinch of salt, and fry, stirring, for three minutes.
Divide the spelled among four plates, place a ball of walnuts on each and bathe everything in more extra virgin olive oil, if desired.