The arrival of kale in our shops is a good thing because it means that autumn – our best season for ingredients – is with us.
This salad is a nice wee celebration of that brassica: whilst it is appropriate for a time when the leaves are turning, it is also still fresh and vibrant, and involves a great mix of flavours, temperatures and textures.
Torn pieces of purple and green curly kale are raw, but sit in citrus juice for 30 minutes, so they just start to soften. Another type of kale, cavolo nero, is quickly blanched and mixed into the salad whilst hot, along with some butter beans, and gently warms the other ingredients. Lightly pickled onions add tang, chestnuts are comforting, orange and tarragon give lightness and depth, and the bread soaks up all of the juices. I really like it.
The salad goes particularly well with pork. Think chops, gammon steak, ham hock or, as this poorly focused photo shows, a crispy piece of roast belly.
Kale, tarragon, chestnut and bread salad
(serves 4 as a side dish)150g red onion, very finely sliced 2g sea salt 20g white wine vinegar 50g water 7g caster sugar 50g curly kale (purple and green if you can) torn from stem into small pieces 50g normal (not extra virgin) olive oil zest from half an orange, finely chopped 50g orange juice 10g tarragon leaves 200g cavolo nero, chopped into 5cm pieces 200g pre-cooked, drained butter beans 1 clove garlic, pureed through a press or with the back of a knife 120g stale sourdough bread, cubed 30g pre-cooked chestnuts, halved Extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to season
Sprinkle the salt over the onions and let macerate for 10 minutes. Bring the vinegar, water and sugar to the boil in a small milk pan. Throw the onions in and remove from the heat. Put a piece of cling film over the onions and push them beneath the pickling liquor. Allow to soften for at least 30 minutes, returning occasionally to push the onions down further.
Put the orange juice, olive oil, orange zest and tarragon in a mixing bowl. Whisk together, then add the pieces of raw kale and toss, ensuring all the leaves are covered. Again, allow this to sit for 30 minutes.
Warm the beans in a little water for 5 minutes and blanch the cavolo nero for 2-3 minutes max. Drain the beans and cavolo nero, incorporate both into the same pan, add the garlic and gently stir. Add these into the cold kale bowl, along with the chestnuts, the pickled onions and a spoon of pickle juice. Toss well, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you wish. Finish with a good glug of peppery extra virgin olive oil.