Cauliflower & Kale Tart

Tart, flan, quiche. Call it what you will, the combination of light, fluffy egg and thin, crisp pastry is something I never tire of.

Frying the cauliflower until charred brings out flavour. Don’t be afraid if you think you are burning it. The more colour, the more flavour.

I cheated here and used a ready rolled packet of shortcrust pastry. Less washing up and so much easier despite the fact they are made just a little too narrow for most tart tins.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small cauliflower – divide the florets then slice
A couple of handfuls of kale or cavalo nero
1 onion – finely sliced
8 eggs
2-3 tablespoons creme fraiche
100g or so of strong cheese – grated

Put the oven on to 180C

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cauliflower over a medium heat until browned and slightly tender. Remove from the pan and fry the onion until it starts to brown.

Set aside to cool.

Plunge the kale into boiling water for 5 mins. Drain then leave to cool.

Beat the eggs and creme fraiche in a large bowl then add the grated cheese and the cooled vegetables.

Roll the pastry a little to fit then use it to line the base and sides of a deep pie dish, making sure there are no cracks or holes. If you have any cracks the filling will seep through leaving a soggy base to your tart. Spread the mustard over the base of the pastry, then tip in the filling mixture.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned on top and set in the middle. Leave to cool and set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Crispy Cavalo Nero

The allotment is a little bare during the winter months. Only Brussels Sprouts and Cavalo Nero remain. Bored of bubble & squeak, and soups I thought I’d try the Cavalo Nero deep fried which concentrates the flavour whilst retaining the beautiful dark green colour. Cavalo Nero is packed full of vitamins A, C, E and K. These essential vitamins are retained through such quick cooking so this is arguably one of the healthiest deep fried foods you can eat.

Cavalo Nero can be difficult to find in the shops. If you can’t find it, use curly kale instead.

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Take 5-8 leaves and remove the tough, woody stalks. Then slice thinly across the leaves.

Take a saucepan and fill a third to half full with sunflower oil. Heat slowly. Test the heat by dropping one shred of Cavalo Nero into the hot oil. if it sizzles, you can add the rest though stand well back as the water in the leaves tend to make to oil bubble up for a few seconds. Fry until the sizzling noise stops, then drain and sprinkle with a little salt and caster sugar. Mix gently before serving.

Serve as an accompaniment to Chinese dishes or like this, piled high on top of a slice of pumpernickel, smothered with creamy, tangy blue cheese.

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Bubble & Squeak

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Late night supper having worked till after 9pm – serves 2

about 6 cavalo nero leaves
3-4 potatoes
1 onion – chopped
a few knobs of butter
glug of olive oil
2 eggs
nutmeg
salt

Peel and cube the potatoes. Boild in salted water until tender, driain then mash with a little butter and some salt.

Remove the woody stems from the cavalo nero, then finely chop and boil for 5 minutes or so until tender. Drain and add to the mashed potato.

Fry the onion in a little butter and olive oil. When starting to brown, remove from heat and add to the mashed potato and cavalo nero.

Add a little grated nutmeg, mix well.

Heat a little more olive oil in a large frying pan. Shape the mash mixture into patties and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until well browned.

Place on plates, then gently fry the eggs in the same pan.

Place an egg on top of the bubble and squeak patty and server with a generous spoonful of beetroot relish.

Cabbage Pizza

Yeah one of my not so great ideas. Having eaten my way through hundreds of courgettes and runner beans I now need to turn my attention to the cavalo nero running riot on the allotment. So, feeling inspired I wondered what a bread base topped with delicious cavalo nero and perhaps a blue cheese might taste like. I chose Dolcelatte to retain the Italian theme and came up with something that looked rather nice as I took it from the oven. A pizza base (made in the bread machine) topped with cooked and cooled cavalo nero, dotted with creamy dolcelatte, a hint of nutmeg then baked in the oven till crisp and bubbly. Topped with chili infused olive oil and served with a nice cold glass of Chardonnay I asked my wife for her opinion. “The wine is nice” she retorted, then went to the kitchen to get a bag of crisps.

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Italian Bean and Vegetable Soup

A lovely, light soup that works well any time of year. I used fresh borlotti beans and cavalo nero grown on the allotment last year but you could use pretty much any bean (cannellini, flageolet, pinto) and any green leafy vegetable such as curly kale, spinach, savoy cabbage, etc.

italian-soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium leek – cut in quarters lengthwise then finely sliced
1 medium carrot – peeled and diced
1 stick of celery – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
Bunch of cavalo nero or spinach – finely sliced
1x400g tin of borlotti beans – drained
Vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried Oregano or a little more if using fresh
Salt
Black pepper
Parmesan cheese – grated
Chili infused olive oil, crushed dried chili or finely sliced fresh red chili

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add leek, celery, carrot and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the sliced cavalo nero or spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain the beans and add with about a teaspoon of fresh or dried oregano. Add enough stock to just cover all the vegetables, bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of chili infused olive oil. If chilis aren’t your thing try a little freshly grated nutmeg on top.