1 Feb 2013

spaghetti with kale, chilli and ginger


I've been undecided about the cavolo nero (kale) growing in my garden: tossing back and forth between admiring its smoky dark green leaves that stand upright like an upturned vegie feather duster; and getting grumpy over the caterpillars that chomp thru the leaves, in places stripping them right back to the white mid-ribs.

I've so far resisted dousing the plants with pyrethrum, but I'm being increasingly swayed because of the multitude of grubs I find when I cut the leaves, and the multitude of holes left by those fat grubs. Some of the leaves looked like the proverbial swiss cheese.

I also haven't been overwhelmed by its performance in the kitchen. It doesn't take to a quick stirfry very well -  it stays sharp in texture to the bite - and unless you're a sucker for fibre, those white mid-ribs, though not too thick, are surprisingly tough. I'm all for super-greens packed with anti-oxidants, but perhaps this is not the green for me.

But then the weather turned wet, grey and cold - as it is wont to do in a Hobart summer - and I thought I'd take a slower approach to the kale.

In garlic oil, I sauteed the last of the spring onions F gave me, along with chopped fresh ginger and red chilli (frozen from last summer's abundant plant).

Once that had softened, I threw in a handful of frozen peas (I'm between crops at the moment) then a few large handfuls of the kale, finely shredded into dark ribbons. I stirred that around for a bit before adding a little white wine (probably only a tablespoon or two, just enough to add some liquid), the juice from a soon-to-expire lemon half that was languishing in the fridge, and clamping the lid down on the frypan, while I boiled some skinny spaghetti.

Taking this 'wetter' approach of steaming (or perhaps braising?) the sturdy leaves with a little liquid produced more satisfying results. The cavolo nero was transformed to tender; and like its cousin curly kale, it stood up well to the stronger flavours of garlic, chilli and ginger - in fact, it flourished with them.

So maybe the cavolo nero will re-appear in another season in my vegie patch. Afterall, I'm a sucker for cooking and eating anything that is ridiculously healthy for you. I just have to conquer those caterpillars.


  1. Now that sounds like the perfect fate for kale, and the perfect meal for an overcast or wet summer day. My gardening friend Kaye put me onto a good idea for bug control -- plant pyrethrum in pots, and just move the pots to areas where there are bugs... and take them away when they're not needed. My other fail-safe bug deterrent is to let coriander seed all over the garden. Bugs seem to hate it, and going to seed it what it likes best anyway, so a win-win.

    1. thanks for the bug control tips sue, especially having movable post of pyrethrum - sounds great. i shall investigate getting the plants.

  2. Some of my neighbouring gardeners grow kale with abundance, though i've always avoided it as i've never been quite sure what to do with it. I'm glad you got it working for you ... i may even take a tip out of your gardening/cooking book. Thanks for sharing.

    1. hello food sage :-) glad i could possibly help someone else too!


Word-verification is on, as the robot-spammers are loving my tuna past bake too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.