Kale challenge #1: Love on fire

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I want to introduce you to my new friend, kale. It is packed with vitamins and minerals and probably qualifies as a “superfood”. It is also the most robust of all cabbages, which means it can be enjoyed fresh from the field all the way through winter.
Kale has so many virtues.  And yet up until now, I haven’t been too keen on kale. Probably because of childhood memories of smelly stewed versions of it.

But I’m set on rediscovering the goodness of kale. So I’ve given myself a challenge: I must come up with at least 3 recipes that show how delicious and versatile kale can be. Say goodbye to soggy, foul-smelling lumps of green mush: These reinterpretations will knock your socks off.

Good intentions aside, the slightly more pragmatic challenge is where to get your hands on fresh kale. It is in season right now, but chances are your local supermarket won’t stock it. So you’ll have to head to a farmer’s market, or if you live in Edinburgh, try Real Foods or Earthy in Causewayside.

Now, love on fire is a poetically named Danish dish that traditionally consists of mashed potato topped with bits of fried bacon. In my version, the bacon is swapped for pancetta, and tender steamed leaves of kale are added along with walnuts and fried garlic (just because you can never have enough topping). Result: Love on a plate!

Serves 4
For the mash:
600 g floury potatoes
300 g sweet potatoes
150 g parsnips
1 bay leaf
a knob of butter
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

50 g pancetta, in cubes
200 g kale
1 clove of garlic
100 g walnuts

1. Peel the potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips, and cut into chunky cubes. Transfer to a pot and boil with the bay leaf and plenty of water for about 15 minutes.

2. While the vegetables are boiling, heat a pan for the pancetta. Chop the garlic and the kale, discarding the stems/stalks. Fry the pancetta until browned and crispy.

3. When the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaf and drain the pot. Using a potato masher or a whisk, mash the vegetables. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add butter and olive oil, and stir until you have the consistency you prefer – I like it rustic, with chunks in, but you can also make it completely smooth.

4. Leave the mash to sit. Fry the garlic and walnuts in the remaining pancetta fat. After a couple of minutes, add the kale and steam for 5 minutes.

5. Plate up: Start with a dollop of mash, decorate with the kale-nut-garlic mix and then scatter some pancetta on top. Velbekomme! (=Danish for “Bon appetite”)

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