Kale is an exhausting food – not because of how it tastes, but for its role in the never-ending culture war. It’s a symbol of wishy-washy, out-of-touch wellness culture, and is therefore considered with suspicion by a certain segment of society. Which is silly, not least because kale is actually excellent. Stop being a baby, buy some kale and then make these recipes.
If you’re new to kale, the first thing you should do is buy a pack of sausages, because the two are a match made in heaven. Kirsty Hale from Riverford Organic Farms has a recipe for sausage, kale and barley stew that may well be the definitive kale recipe. The sausage and kale pair perfectly, and the stock-soaked pearl barley adds heft. You might want to wait a couple of weeks before making this, because it has autumn written all over it, but you must definitely make it at some point.
If you’d prefer a more traditional starch, then let me introduce you to boerenkool stamppot. It’s an old Dutch dish which amounts to bubble and squeak. Boil some potatoes, chuck in some kale, boil the lot together, drain, mash and serve (again, it’s great with sausages). International Cuisine has a foolproof recipe.
Kale is also a staple when you’re making meat-free dishes. I’m very taken with the kale and wild mushroom lasagne recipe I found in an old Readers’ recipe swap article from five years ago. As you’d expect, the mushrooms act as a meat substitute, but the kale is the real star. It’s cooked and mixed through the bechamel before assembly; a trick so ingenious that I’m immediately going to start ripping it off. Credit here goes to Dale Berning Sawa, who has very sensibly ramped up the bechamel quotient something rotten.
Something slightly lighter is Ravinder Bhogal’s recipe for kale, pineapple and red cabbage salad with lime leaf peanut dressing. There are a lot of ingredients at play here – palm sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce – but Bhogal maintains that, if you have them to hand, this salad can come together in half an hour. It turns out that sweet pineapple is an excellent foil to the bitterness of kale.
For something that is definitively summery, though, you can’t do better than Barney Desmazery’s kale tabbouleh. This is an absolute riot of flavours, with mint, onion, tomatoes, lemon and feta all battling one another for dominance. This is, hands down, the perfect weekday summer lunch.
Another recipe I’ve fallen hard for is Sarah Jampel’s coconut curry greens with runny eggs. It’s a riff on a shakshuka, but with my least favourite part (the tomatoes) swapped out for something I prefer (curried greens). The curry isn’t too overpowering – it’s predominantly garlic, ginger and lemongrass – and the richness of the egg yolks makes this an especially comforting experience.
A kale recipe roundup wouldn’t be a kale recipe roundup without some classics. Kale crisps might have a reputation for being the precise opposite of fun, but Olive magazine’s version has just the right hit of flavour. Once baked, the kale leaves are doused in smoked paprika and cumin, which combine to make for a surprisingly moreish snack.
Also, smoothies. There’s no real wrong way to make a kale smoothie – you just throw a handful of kale into whatever smoothie you happen to be making – but Food Flavorz has a recipe for kale banana smoothies that should be a good guide for beginners.
Something I would have never thought of doing in a million years is using kale as a dust. But that’s exactly what Deb Perelman does with her pecorino popcorn recipe. Make a batch of kale crisps, then obliterate them with a pestle and mortar and scatter over some cheesy popcorn. Perelman confidently states that these are a hit with preschoolers, although I’ll confess to being too much of a coward to attempt it.
Finally, proof that you can stick anything in a cake: Veggie Desserts’ kale and apple cake is an absolute beauty. By pureeing kale and applesauce and adding it to the batter, you end up with a cake that is the most incredibly vibrant green. Better yet, it tastes just like cake should, despite being full of veg. Quids in!