Monday, 1 November 2010


Not an Italian opera singer, but a dark-leafed cabbage that, for a while, was frightfully exclusive and fashionable, especially with afficionados of The River Cafe. Hard to obtain, and, when found, fiendishly expensive, it was once the vegetable de jour. Then Waitrose started to stock it, when in season, and suddenly it stopped being quite so trendy and instead became an interesting vegetable that's worth taking the trouble to seek out and cook. It hails from Tuscany and has a pleasantly tangy, slightly bitter flavour which sweetens with cooking.

My neighbour, Jenny, who has a big garden AND an allotment, grows Cavolo Nero, and when she has an excess of it, she leaves a bundle on my doormat. (She also grows courgettes, potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb and other delicious fruit, veg and herbs.). I had a recollection of a recipe for it, stir-fried in olive oil with garlic and chilli. I made it and it was delicious. Cooked like this, it makes a great Italian-style side dish for meat or fish. Tonight I will be serving it with my coq au cidre (see previous post).

Serves 2-4

2 bundles of cavolo nero, trimmed of any tough or damaged outer leaves and tough stalks, and finely shredded
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a wok or similar pan and fry the onion (if using) and garlic until soft. Add the chilli and cook for another minute or so. Add the cavolo nero and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until wilted. Season generously with salt and pepper, and serve.

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