Monday, 18 January 2010

Crispy Kale

On my travels through blog-world I often come across new blogs that inspire and amuse me.  Most are cookery blogs, but inevitably there is some overlap between subjects, and a recent 'acquaintance' of mine ably demonstrates this.  I met Nic through searching for anyone else who may have made Hedgerow Jelly this Autumn, and sure enough, she had.  Nic's blog, Nip it in the Bud, is largely focused on gardening - never mind green fingers, her allotment makes me green with envy! - but she, like me, also has a passion for preserves, as photos of her cupboard packed with jars of jams, jellies, chutneys, etc, show.

At this time of year there isn't much to be harvested from an allotment, but there are clearly some treats still to be had...  this recipe for Kale Crisps had me dashing out to my "allotment" (cough, Tescos...) so that I could make them myself.

The recipe is simplicity itself:  Simply preheat the oven to 180C, and put 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl.  Mix quickly and then add half a bag of chopped kale (ready washed for the ultra-lazy chef - me - in this case) and stir well until the kale is coated in the dressing.

Then simply spread the glistening kale onto a baking tray - I didn't even bother to line it - and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Nic's recipe says 10, but I left it in a little too long as I didn't hear the timer ring, and no harm had come to it.

I gave it a final sprinkling of Maldon salt before piling it into a bowl and serving immediately.

This snack may not win any prizes for good looks, but - my goodness - what a great taste!  I'm not a huge fan of kale cooked in any other way, often finding it a bit indigestible, but this bowl full of crispy kale was hoovered up by Rob and myself within minutes.  Therein lies a warning actually - be very careful not to inhale when you have any of this close to your mouth, as both Rob and I suffered minor choking fits as a small piece of kale was sucked in and lodged in our throats...  Not an elegant (or pleasant) experience!

However, I would risk this injury just to eat this again - indeed I will probably do so tomorrow night as I still have half a bag of kale in the fridge.  Definitely the best way to eat kale, and surely more healthy than regular crisps.  Perfect!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Noxious Nocino

Remember those green walnuts I collected last year?  I was so excited by them that I started off a batch of pickled walnuts, and also some walnut liqueur - Nocino. 

Well, the moment of truth arrived... and, well, truth is the Nocino is vile!  I have to admit that my suspicions were raised when the previously beautiful jar of bright green nuts began turning first brown, then black.  Within weeks I had to push the jar to the back of the utility room counter because I really didn't want to be looking at it every day.  I was finding the sight of it faintly disturbing.

Here's the 'before' shot - gorgeous:

Aaaaaaaaand 'after':

Bleugh!  Note too the unappealing oily sheen on top of the liquid.  What's that all about?!  I guess the nuts contain natural oils which have leached out into the vodka.  But whatever, it's not looking appetising.

Now there are some things that look gross but taste nice.  Pickled walnuts for example.  These turned black too, but actually taste good - we've enjoyed some with those post-Christmas cold-meats-and-chips kind of meals and they're fine.  A few have needed discarding as the shells had obviously started to form, so they're a little unyielding in parts when you try to eat them (I'm really selling them aren't I!) but honestly, they do taste nice.  But the Nocino... no.

Here it is when poured out of the jar:

Black, oily, scummy - pass the shot glass!

I strained it into a bottle, and there it sits now, looking slightly accusingly at me...  good job I only used cheap vodka.

Even David Lebovitz, a fan of this liqueur, and from whose blog I took the recipe declines to drink this neat, but instead suggests pouring it over vanilla ice-cream as a dessert.  After a tentative sip of the Nocino, we decided that ice-cream might indeed make it more palatable so we tried it earlier this week.  Unfortunately, even the sweetness of vanilla ice-cream couldn't disguise the bitterness of the liqueur.

I think our best hope is to push the bottle to the back of the drinks cabinet and forget about it.  A bit of 'aging' might just improve it - and if not, in a few years' time I'll have no qualms about just pouring it down the sink.

Ah well, you win some, you lose some...

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year!

So it's goodbye 2009...

And hello 2010!

So far it's been beautiful - sunny and frosty (just the weather for a hearty pie!)

Here's hoping that the new year will be filled with good food and good friends, and plenty of excitements besides.