Tuesday 12 April 2011

Kale Surprise Reprise

As a follow up to my article Kale Surprise from a few days ago, I thought I would return briefly to the subject to mention the joys of the kale top sprouts.

One of my brothers (I have several) mentioned to me that they're very good to eat - just like sprouting broccoli. So we gave it a go. I should point out that, if you're going to use them, pick them before any of the yellow flowers begin to show, otherwise they'll be bitter. I was able to break them off quite far down because the stems were quite succulent and I knew that they would soften up nicely during cooking. If they seem at all fibrous at the point where you snap them then consider cutting off a bit of the stem until you are just left with the head and a shorter but juicier and less stringy piece of stem.

Simply steam the kale 'florets' until they turn a verdant green then add butter and season with a good dose of salt and pepper. I'd imagine they would be excellent in other recipes where you might usually use broccoli, such as one of my favourites - chicken and broccoli pie. This isn't a proper pie, really, but rather a mixture of leftover chicken and steamed broccoli (or kale tops) mixed with white or cheesy Bechamel sauce. Top the mixture with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan then whack in the oven for twenty minutes or so. Make sure you put plenty of mustard, I think Dijon is best, into your sauce, to give it a bit of 'bite'.

There is an altruistic benefit to leaving the tops to flower, rather than scoffing them. When they open up into buttery-yellow flower the bees go mad for them. My mum keeps bees and she's horrified by the prospect of people removing any potential nectar source that they might use. I left mine to flower last year but, I have to admit, that was only because I didn't realise then that they were so good to eat! But at least I can say that I'm doing rotation: one year the bees get them; the next we get them.

Actually, I think the bees are out of luck. We'll plant some more flowers for them but anything potentially edible is for me!

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