Our seasonal feature for August, is KALE KALE KALE, the vegetable that appears to be flavour of the month or really the flavour of the past few years, Mr. Popular indeed. Let’s be honest though it’s not exactly an instant mouth party. No, we actually picked kale for this month because Natasha is convinced it tastes like ass or in her words ‘farts’, but I’ve reassured her it doesn’t have too. Copius amounts of butter and two types of cheese later, and I think I might just sway her towards giving kale a little love. What about you? Are you a friend or foe to this hip and happening green vegetable?
How to grow it?
As far as I am aware there are a few varieties of kale; curly kale, red kale and Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero). All three are all about the leaves, forming beautiful and interesting shapes and colours to be harvested. I originally started buying kale as seedlings in the winter when I ran school gardens for the Stephanie Alexander Foundation. It meant I was planting something exciting and different for the children during a sometimes same same season but I didn’t have to worry about cooking it, which was handy because I knew basically nothing about it except I thought it smelt a bit farty.
What I have discovered over the years is that kale is one of the hardiest and easiest winter vegetables you can grow in your backyard. It is similar to growing other brassicas, but is tougher and less prone to pest and diseases than its family members. Once your seedlings are established, I’m talking 20cm and above, it will basically take care of itself. The only pest that seems to go after it during this stage is the cabbage moth caterpillar, but they are easy to spot and take off. My own babes pick them off and put them on the fence for the birds to eat, at which time I sing ‘The Circle of Life’ …to a lukewarm response.
You can grow kale from seeds or seedlings, I have always grown it from seedlings. Since kale is a leafy green you can get away with putting it in a part shade position but it will also grow happily in a sunny spot. Also kale isn’t too fussy about the soil, it just doesn’t like it to be poorly drained, which means soil on the clay side. Regular watering will produce tender leaves, and I like to companion plant where and when I can. Kale likes to hang out with beetroot, celery, thyme, sage, rosemary, dill, onions, and corn. It doesn’t care for strawberries, tomatoes or beans.
After a winter like ours in Melbourne (where I have woken up the bird bath totally frozen over), it’s good to know brassicas, and in particular kale, love the frost. People even say it tastes better after a frost. Kale can be left can grow really, really big and will last in the ground for ages. All you have to do is harvest leaves as you need them, starting from the bottom up. Eventually they will go to flower, signalling the end – pull the kale out and save the seeds.
To save the seeds put all the flowers and pods into a pillowcase and hang for a few days, when they have dried you can rub them in your hands and little black seeds will pop out. Now you can plant your Spring/Summer crop in its place. I recommend planting fruiting vegetables in its place, for example tomatoes, eggplants or capsicums.
So that’s it for me! Happy kale growing. I’m so excited to try Camilla’s recipe, we have a garden full of kale and silver beet. Speaking of silver beet pretty much everything I said about kale applies to silver beet so try planting that too (it’s secretly one of my favourites!) – buy the rainbow silver beet, it’s so pretty. See you in the soil!
Words by Natasha Grogan of The Sage Garden
How to cook it?
To be honest my absolute favourite way to cook kale, is simply to sauté it with a good glug or two of olive oil, some salt/pepper and a heck load of garlic. Sweet jeezuz I could eat bowls of the stuff! Others, however, may need a little convincing so I’ve combined kale with silverbeet and snuck it into layers of buttery filo pastry and salty haloumi, for a more gentle introduction to this so called ‘super’ veggie. Personally, I ain’t buying into the hype. I love me some cooked (Tuscan kale of my fav) but you won’t find me slurping down green juices with the stuff or eating it raw in salads. Blergh! Each to their own.
This pie may seem fiddly with all the filo pastry layering but it’s actually ridiculously simple and rather rustic. The haloumi can easily be substituted for feta, or leave out both and add some extra Parmesan cheese to the pie filling. Plus, you can also substitute in whatever green leafy vegetables you have on hand.
Kale, Silverbeet and Haloumi Pie
130 g kale (any type- around one small bunch)
350-400 g silverbeet/chard (approx., 1-2 large bunches)
375 g of fresh ricotta
100 g haloumi
375 g packet of filo pastry (fresh not frozen preferred)
100 g butter, melted
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
To prepare the filling
Prepare the kale and silverbeet first – wash all the leaves thoroughly and then remove the any thick and/or woody stalks.
Slice the kale into rough strips and quickly stirfry in olive oil until wilted and tender, then set aside.
Slice silverbeet into strips also and place in a large bowl. Blanch the silverbeet by covering with boiling water – pressing down the leaves into the bowl until they are soft and tender.
Place silverbeet in a sieve and drain away excess water. You want to remove as much moisture from the leaves as possible so get squeezing.
Place prepared kale and silverbeet in a large mixing bowl. Add in ricotta, eggs, a little salt, cracked pepper and the lemon. Mix together with clean hands until just combined.
To assemble the pie
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and then grease a large glass or ceramic baking dish with butter (we used a 24 x 32 cm Pyrex dish). Reserve the rest of the butter for the filo pastry.
On a large pastry board/clean surface roll out filo pastry. Take one sheet at a time and butter with a pastry brush before layering into the bottom of the dish. Work quickly and repeat until you have a base of desired thickness.
Place the pie mixture into the dish and evenly distribute with a spatula. Cut haloumi into thin slices and layer over the top of the greens mixture. Fold over any overhanging filo pastry.
Repeat filo, butter and layer’ process for the top of the pie – don’t be too precious about the layering we normally scrunch it a little as we layer it up to yield an extra crispy crust. In total, you might use around 15-20 pastry sheets, depending on how thick you want the pastry on the top/bottom.
Brush the top with melted butter and place in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until top of pie is crispy and golden.
Serve warm, or cold, if you prefer.
Pie will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days, it makes a great quick and portable lunch.
Pastry can be omitted from the base for a more open-style pie if preferred.
Fresh filo pastry can be found in the chiller section of your local supermarket or grocer.