Cavolo Nero or black cabbage also known as kale is a deep green leafy vegetable popular in Tuscany and increasingly easy to find here in N.Ireland in some super markets and markets , certainly it can be found in St. Georges market, Belfast. Or if you are lucky you can easily grow your own. It is a winter vegetable which comes into it’s own after the first frosts. Like most leafy greens it is a powerhouse of nutrients and something I try to add to my diet regularly The simplest way to cook it is in a large pan of boiling salted water. Do not add to the water until already boiling and do not cover with a lid. Cook on the highest heat until just tender then strain well and squeeze out any excess water , place on a warm serving dish and add a sprinkle of salt and a generous drizzle of really good olive oil .
This is a picture of it growing in my father’s garden. It also makes a really great addition to a winter minestrone soup. This recipe is based on a River Cafe recipe, it is a soup that was often on the menu when I worked there and it always changed with the seasons as indeed does the whole menu.
Autumn / Winter Minestrone
500g Savoy cabbage or cavolo nero
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 head of celery, finely chopped
Pinch of dried chilli
1 tin borlotti beans, drain and rinse
1 tin plum tomatoes
500ml-1 litre water
Salt and pepper
Warm a little olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic and the chilli, season with salt and pepper and cook gently until soft.
Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt.
Wash the cabbage and remove the stalks, if using savoy shred the leaves, cook the cabbage in the boiling water for 4-5 minutes until just cooked.
Drain, keeping the water and chop roughly.
When the vegetables are soft add the tomatoes and cook for another 15 minutes, then add the beans and stock and simmer for another 15 minutes, then add the cabbage and more water if necessary.
Taste to check the seasoning and serve with a drizzle of good oil and freshly grated parmesan on top.