Cavolo nero, purple kale, smoked butter and anchovies

I somehow ended up with the world’s greatest vegetable basket.

It contained a glut of freshly dug, plucked and cut roots, bulbs, leaves and herbs and was, as you can see, basically awesome.

Amongst the spoils were artichokes, squashes, beetroots, turnips, brassicas, peppers, extraordinary radishes and a black bulby rooty thing that I still have no clue as to what it is, even after two days of looking.

Realising that it would be a travesty if I did not get the best out of them over the next few days, I set aside a few minutes at lunchtime today for some careful planning and veg box management.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any further than deciding that a few of the leaves needed using before they wilted. Rainbow and some kind of giant chard could wait a few more hours, but some cavolo nero and purple kale looked like they needed an immediate home.

So I chopped the cavolo nero roughly at the leafy end, and slightly finer towards the stem, picked the leaves off the woody purple stems of the kale, and cooked these down with some mushed up garlic, cheap anchovies, dried chilli, a tiny bit of fresh thyme and the world’s best fat: smoked butter. Some cavatelli pasta provided a bit of texture, but was deliberately outweighed by brassica – this was about the veg.

It all worked extremely well (even if I do say so myself). Salty anchovies, just a little heat from the chilli, an undercurrent of thyme and the faintest smokiness from the butter – great flavours that enhanced rather than dominated the cavolo nero and kale.

It photographed terribly but tasted great; I heartily recommend the combination – whether as a side dish or stirred through pasta.

Cavolo nero, purple kale, smoked butter and anchovies

Served one as a reasonably filling lunch. Would have worked as a side dish for 2-3 without pasta.

  • 60g purple kale (before picking)
  • 100g cavolo nero
  • 3 tinned anchovies in oil
  • one small bulb of garlic
  • half a dried chilli
  • leaves of 1 small thyme stem
  • 100ml water
  • 20g smoked butter
  • 100g fresh cavatelli pasta
  • 20g parmesan

(I used pasta that took only 3 minutes to cook. The vegetables only take a few minutes to cook, so if you are using dried pasta, you should only start cooking the cavolo nero/kale when your pasta is nearly ready.)

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for your pasta.

Prepare your vegetables: chop the leaves of the cavolo nero roughly – 1-2 inches wide. As you get to the stems, maybe halve the width of your cuts. Pick the tender leaves off the kale stems (discarding the stems). Mash/puree/garlic press your garlic. Finely chop the chilli.

Put a wide based saucepan on a medium flame. Add the anchovies and one or two teaspoons of their oil into the pan. As they start to sizzle and melt, add the garlic puree, chilli and thyme (leaves only) and stir for twenty seconds before adding the stem ends of cavolo nero. Stir for 30 seconds more then add the remainder of the cavelo nero, the kale and 100ml of water.

Cook pasta in the boiling water. Drain when ready.

As the pasta is cooking, turn the heat up a touch and let the leaves cook and wilt. Most of the water should steam away over the course of one to two minutes.

Taste a bit of greenery. You want a bit of bite still. If nearly done, add the 20g knob of smoked butter to the remaining moisture in the pan and stir the leaves well so they become glossy. Take off the heat and stir in a little grated parmesan.

Mix with pasta in the saucepan then plate up. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and grate more parmesan over the veg if you wish. Enjoy.