We have nearly run out of food at the allotment – and a good thing too. The last of the winter veg have more or less been eaten up and we need the space for this year’s crops. In the case of the leeks, the last four or five left standing are pretty spindly and look more like spring onions. With the purple sprouting broccoli maturing nicely and first pink asparagus bud just breaking the surface, I want to look forward to fresh and dainty spring meals, not hark back to winter sustenance.
With a view to finishing off the last of the crop, I picked as many viable cavolo nero leaves as possible and the last January King, so that I can now dig out the winter brassicas with a clear conscience. Back in the kitchen, I dug out the jar of dried borlotti beans to find only around 200g left. Now, these will store perfectly well until this year’s borlotti beans are picked, but they do go so well with the cavolo nero I couldn’t resist, and put the whole lot in to soak.
The beans were cooked very simply then dressed with a little olive oil. The cavolo nero was washed and simmered briefly, then mixed with a little sautéed garlic and the beans stirred in. The beans are beautifully plump – is that because they are still comparatively fresh? - and have the best texture of all dried beans, really quite dense and mealy. The cavolo nero in contrast is dark and silky. I ate this topped with a fat and juicy gammon steak – great comfort food.
Tuscan kale and borlotti beans
2-3 good fistfuls of cavolo nero
200g borlotti beans
2 cloves garlic
1 teasp smoked paprika
Rinse the beans and soak them in cold water for at least four hours. Drain, and put them in a large pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, and simmer, semi-covered, until the beans are just tender. Drain, return the beans to the pan and pour over about a tablespoonful of good olive oil. Toss the beans in the oil, cover and leave while you prepare the cavolo nero.
Put a large pan of water on to boil, adding a good thick pinch of salt. Wash the leaves well, stripping out any tough central stalks – you don’t have to be obsessive about this. Slice the greens thickly widthways. Add to the pan when the water is boiling and bring it back to the boil as quickly as possible. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then drain well, pressing out any liquid with the back of a wooden spoon.
In the cavolo nero pan, pour a dessertspoon of olive oil and heat gently. Chop the garlic cloves very finely and add to the oil. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, throw in the cavolo nero and toss well to distribute the garlic. Stir in the beans, and add the smoked paprika (or ordinary paprika if no smoked is available). Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Make sure it’s all piping hot and serve.