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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A warm salad of kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes

A friend was recently describing the life-changing transcendence and clarity of a psychotropic experience, and I sat there and realized that the only thing I have been experimenting with lately is kale.  And while initially I felt incredibly frustrated at the boringness of this, after researching a little bit into kale (thank you Wikipedia, reason I passed my masters) I realized that while it might not have any actual psychedelic properties, it is pretty rad.  Yeah, rad.

This is some of what Wikipedia has to say about kale.  If you stare at it for long enough, things really do start spinning in a trippy kind of way…(not really). 

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; is it an anti-inflammatory and is very high in lovely things like beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium.  As well as other brassicas, kale contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties.

Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Curly leafed varieties of cabbage already existed along with flat leafed varieties in Greece in the fourth century BC. The leaf colours range from light green through green, dark green and violet-green to violet-brown. Russian kale was introduced into Canada (and then into the U.S.) by Russian traders in the 19th century.  During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign. The vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of rationing.[6]

Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavourful after being exposed to a frost.
Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly flavoured ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, tamari-roasted almonds, red pepper flakes, or an Asian-style dressing.

Kale seems to be massively popular all across the world, so maybe it’s a little weird that we don’t cook so much of it here.  To be honest I only picked it up because I was craving something spinachey and the kale was 50p cheaper…

In Ireland kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish colcannon.
A traditional Portuguese soup, caldo verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage. Under the name of couve, kale is also popular in Brazil, in caldo verde, or as a vegetable dish, often cooked with carne seca (shredded dried beef). When chopped and stir-fried, couve accompanies Brazil's national dish, feijoada.
In East Africa, it is an essential ingredient in making a stew for ugali, which is almost always eaten with kale. Kale is also eaten throughout southeastern Africa, where it is typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanuts and is served with rice or boiled cornmeal.
A whole culture around kale has developed in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen, Oldenburg and Hannover. There, most social clubs of any kind will have a Grünkohlfahrt ("kale tour") sometime between October and February, visiting a country inn to consume large quantities of boiled kale, Kassler, Mettwurst and schnapps. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a "kale king" (or queen).
Curly kale is used in Denmark and Halland, Sweden, to make (grøn-)langkål, an obligatory dish on the julbord in the region, and is commonly served together with the Christmas ham (Sweden, Halland).
In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be "off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat.
In Montenegro collards, locally known as rashtan is a favorite vegetable. It is particularly popular in winter, cooked with smoked mutton (kastradina) and potatoes.


Makes a large portion time: 40 mins difficulty: 2/5 taste: 3.5/5

I bag of kale
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice, no more than 1 inch square
1 large broccoli, separated into florets
Large handful of pumpkin seeds (or nuts)
Sage (fresh or dried)
Chilli powder
Olive oil
Lemon juice

You will need a large frying pan with a lid.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees before you chop the sweet potatoes.  Toss the cubes with 1 glug of olive oil, sage, paprika and a smallish pinch of chili powder.  Arrange in single layers on a couple of oven trays and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes.  When there are about 10-15 minutes left, add the broccoli in with the sweet potatoes (they cook better if they are slightly damp).

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, toast the pumpkin seeds in a very hot frying pan until they all start puffing up and popping.  This should take a few minutes, and use the time to get the kale thoroughly washed in a colander.  Once the seeds are done transfer them to a large bowl.  Add the dripping kale straight to the hot pan, turn the heat down slightly and clamp the lid on.  Let it steam for about 5 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to stir the greens around.

When the kale is cooked, drain all the liquid from the frying pan and rinse the kale a few times in cold water to stop it overcooking.  Make sure that you squeeze out as much water as possible before adding it to the large bowl.  Finally add the broccoli and sweet potatoes, and mix everything together with the juice of about half a lemon.

So you may not see any swirly colours of higher truths, but it is yummy and leaves you with that lovely smug feeling you get after eating something really wholesome.  


  1. Is 200 degrees accurate for the sweet potatoes? That doesn't seem hot enough to actually cook them?

    1. Hi there, thanks for finding my blog and commenting. All my measurements and quantities are in metric. 20c is pretty hot, equivalent to about 392f if that helps.