Our resident chef Mark Hix on the perfect way to cook kale, our generation's hipster superfood

 
Mark Hix
Curly curly curly kale

As a kid my grandmother used to serve curly kale every winter but like a lot of her home cooking, she’d completely crucify it. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't a bad cook per se, but like most people of her generation, she didn't really know when to turn the gas off.

There was just no comprehension in Britain back then of cooking things al dente. She would even go as far as to put bicarbonate of soda in the water to keep it green, but after rapid boiling for half an hour and keeping it warm in the pan until serving, it didn't stand much chance of keeping any colour; despite her best efforts, it would inevitably end up a dull grey.

If I had known then what I know now I could have helped, but sadly I used to sit there and shovel down spoonfuls of organic sludge, unaware of the potential joys of this so-called superfood.

Kale and curly kale has made a comeback on restaurant menus, and farmers are now cutting the hearts of the kale as an added-value ingredient. This is a smart move: I'm all for farmers being a bit more forward thinking and getting a bit more out of what they grow, rather like dairy farmers making cheese and yoghurt.

Crispy prawn Kale hearts

Serves 4-6 as a snack

This is a version of the crispy seaweed you find in Chinese restaurants, which isn't often seaweed at all but shredded fried cabbage. It’s a great way to use up prawn shells instead of making them into a stock or bisque.

Ingredients

A couple handfuls (250-300g or so) of kale hearts or the leaves from a curly kale

A good handful of prawn heads and shells

1tbs Cornish sea salt

1 tsp caster sugar

Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Method

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180c in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Pre heat your oven to the lowest setting. Ensure your prawn shells and heads are very dry then deep fry them for a few minutes until really crisp and drain on some kitchen paper. Keep the oil.

Transfer to a baking tray and leave them in the oven for 3-4 hours or over night as long as you don't have a lie in. The shells should be nice and crispy by now. In a food processor or by hand chop them as finely as possible then mix with the sea salt and sugar and put to one side.

If you are using curly kale leaves, tear them into even sized bite sized pieces and wash and dry well in a salad spinner.

Strain the oil you cooked the prawn shells in then heat to the same temperature. Fry the leaves or hearts a handful at a time, moving them around in the pan with a slotted spoon for a couple minutes or so until crisp. Drain on some kitchen paper and do the same with the rest.

To serve, toss the crispy leaves with a little of the prawn mixture and scatter the rest on top.

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