Kale me now: kale and almond pesto recipe

While Jackie Stallone has said that the secret to her – err – longevity is eating a bag of spinach a day, I’ve got to admit I’m more of a kale girl.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to bang on about all the reasons I love kale – you can read that here in this food trends piece I did recently for the Independent.

But I will say this – as you might have guessed from my Instagram and Twitter feeds, I eat a lot of our green (and sometimes red) curly leaved friend. Me and Elly Pear (who started the – initially tongue-in-cheek – #100wayswithkale tag on instagram) are forever swapping ideas, and I just never seem get bored of it.

I always had it growing up, as a nice robust green often as a side to a slow braise or beef stew, but it was my time in Vancouver that really converted me to this hearty, wholesome green. It was EVERYWHERE, and in a city where ingredients were very expensive, it was one of the most affordable and available ingredients. I really like it with my poached egg in the morning, or, in summer, blitzed up into a smoothie with banana, ginger and coconut water. It’s so fricking good for you!

Photo: Kale smoothie time. So West Coast right now.

A bag of kale goes a long way too, and doesn’t wither in the fridge like spinach or broccoli. I know I sound a bit like shrimp-obsessed Bubba in Forrest Gump, but you can steam it, roast it into wonderfully crisp chips, saute it in a little bit of olive oil, use it to bulk-out and health-up various soups, stews and salads, and even make it into a tasty pesto to slather on spaghetti.

It’s fair to say there’s going to be the odd kale recipe in my forthcoming cookbook ‘Fresh: 80 new recipes from market to table’, which, very excitingly, is being published by the amazing Hardie Grant next spring, but for now, here’s my recipe for kale and almond pesto for you to be getting on with. It’s delicious, super-simple to whizz up, economical, and will completely negate any guilt you might feel (you shouldn’t) about eating a big old bowl of pasta…

Kale and almond pesto
Makes a small jar of pesto for smothering on toasted sourdough, gallettes, fish, steak or for stirring into spaghetti

60g/three big handfuls of washed curly kale, stems removed and discarded
Large handful basil
Large handful parsley
three spring onions, roughly chopped
four cloves of garlic
40g sliced/flaked almonds
25g of grated parmesan – the best you can find
Large pinch of red chilli flakes
4 tbspn extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
Good grind of black pepper
Large pinch of sea salt
1 tbspn lemon juice
75g spaghetti

Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Add the spring onions and garlic once it boils and cook for three minutes, until they’re soft. Add the kale and cook for about 40 seconds, until it’s bright green and floppy – could be less. Don’t overcook it as it will lose that lovely bright green colour.

Lift out the kale with a slotted spoon and put it onto a plate. Lift our the garlic and spring onion and blitz them in a food processor with the almonds. Add the parsley, basil and chilli flakes and blitz again. Squeeze the excess water out of the kale and add that to the food processor too, blitzing, followed by the lemon juice and zest, Parmesan and 4 tbspn of the olive oil. Season with black pepper and salt to taste, and stir. Store your pesto in a clean jar and drizzle with olive oil to seal in the freshness.

You can cook your pasta in the same water. When the spaghetti is al dente – do not overcook- it will take five or six minutes, drain, reserving a splash of the pasta water. Stir in generous tablespoons of the pesto and cooking water and top with freshly ground black pepper.

Warm salad of roasted aubergine and broccoli with anchovy lemon dressing

I love broccoli. It’s one of the foods I really crave when I’ve been overindulging, which, as you know, happens fairly regularly. I came up with this recipe after a couple of days of eating, when I got back to my flat and happened to have some aubergine and broc in the fridge. I wanted something wholesome and nutritious, but tasty and sating at the same time. I particularly love the nutty flavour broccoli takes on when you roast it in a bit of olive oil in a hot oven: it’s somehow more interesting and satisfying than just blanching it, and it retains its crunch a little better, which works really well against the squish of the roasted aubergine. You can add a dollop of crème fraîche to the dressing if you find it a bit sharp, but personally I like it that way – I love how the acidity cuts the creamy aubergine flesh.

For the salad
Serves 2 

Half a head of broccoli
One teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes
One garlic clove, sliced
One medium aubergine
Two handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon of Maldon sea salt
Glug of olive oil

For the dressing
Half a small tin of anchovies in olive oil, chopped
The juice of half a lemon
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Five teaspoons of olive oil
A splash of tabasco
Half a teaspoon of honey
Half a teaspoon of crème fraîche (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180. Slice the aubergine into hearty rounds (about 3cm thick). In a bowl, coat the aubergine in the oil, salt and chilli. Then lay them onto a flat baking tray and place in the hot oven for ten minutes. In the meantime, cut the florets of broccoli off the stalk, reserving the stalk and any leaves, as these can be roasted too. Cut the florets into bite sized pieces – some might be the right size but you might have to slice others in half. People tend to throw the stalk away, but it’s actually just as tasty as the rest of this brassica if you get to the tender inside bit, so waste not, want not. Cut off the rough end of the stalk, and peel with a knife until you get to the tender pale bit inside. Slice into 2cm thick rectangles.

After the aubergine has cooked for ten minutes, remove the tray from the oven and turn the rounds over. Now add on the broccoli florets, stalk and any leaves. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes.

While that’s cooking you can make the dressing. Briskly combine the lemon juice, olive oil, tabasco, honey (and crème fraîche, if using) until it’s all emulsified and then add in the chopped anchovies, garlic and parsley.

When the vegetables are ready, take them out of the oven and let them sit for five minutes. Arrange the baby spinach on the plate, scatter over the aubergine and broccoli, and drizzle over you dressing. This dish works well on its own as a healthy supper, or on the side of something like roast lamb.