I try to take a list with me whenever I go grocery shopping, and I try really hard to stick to it . . . but I always inevitably come home with a few things that weren't on my list. And it's not normally something like biscuits or other naughty bits . . . it's more than likely to be a fruit or a vegetable that's just caught my eye and created a craving.
The other day I came upon some Cavolo Nero Cabbage, and it looked really tasty . . . really nice, dark green and very fresh looking . . . it's leaves all tightly crinkled. Flavorsome and mildly astringent, it is a lovely brassica that is a real favourite of mine. It's chock full of vitamins and good things. It's also known as Black Cabbage, Tuscan Cabbage and Black or Dinosaur Kale, due to it's upright and extremely wrinkled black green leaves. Of course I had to bring some home with me.
It's just lovely shredded and added to vegetable soups, and is lovely when braised. You can even toss it with some olive oil and seasonings and then bake it in the oven until it is crispy like Kale Chips. Today I decided to just make a simple gratin with it, using up some things in my fridge that needed using up. I had some pancetta cubes that were coming close to their sell by date and a pot of double cream . . . just perfect for using up in this delicious dish. Very easy to make . . . I like easy to make as I am rather lazy at times. I put my hand up and admit it.
You will want to wash it really well as, with all of those little crinkles . . . it has a tendency to hold in grit and dirt. Just wash it under some running water and shake it dry. I always cut the middle stems out of the Cavolo as it can be a bit stringy and fibrous, and I am not all that fond of the texture. Then I just simply slice it crosswise coarsely, and steam.
Bacon and cabbage are perfect partners and so I sauteed the pancetta until it was just beginning to crisp and let out it's juices and then I added a chopped onion, and cooked it all until it was golden and soft. Then I dumped in the pot of cream and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.
I put the steamed cabbage into a shallow baking dish and then I poured the delicious cream mixture over top, sprinkled with come crisp and buttery crumbs and then banged it into the oven until the whole thing was bubbly and the crumbs were turning a nice golden brown.
The sauce was rich, but not overly so . . . with smokey undertones from the bacon and a bit of sharpness from the mustard . . . and then of course there was that golden sweetness of the onions . . . all going very well with those dark green, slightly bitter and astringent leaves.
It made a fabulous simple supper tonight, along with a crusty loaf and a few slices of cheddar cheese. A simple supper for a cool Monday evening . . . warming and satisfying.
*A Tasty Gratin of Cavolo Nero*
Simple and delicious.
300g of Cavolo Nero
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
140g of diced pancetta (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
375ml of cream
1 heaped TBS of Dijon mustard
Wash the Cavolo Nero well. Trim out and discard the thick ribs in the center, and coarsely chop. Fill a large skillet half full of water. Season generously with salt and bring to the boil. Add the Cavolo Nero and cover. Steam for about 5 minutes, then drain well. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4.
Add the diced pancetta to the skillet and cook until it begins to release it's fat. Add the onion. Cook and stir until the pancetta is lightly crisped and the onion has softened. Add the Dijon mustard and cream, whisking all together. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as required with salt and pepper.
Butter a gratin dish. Place half of the steamed cabbage in the dish. Drizzle with half of the cream mixture. Add the remaining cabbage mixture, piling it up slightly in the centre. Pour the remainder of the cream over top and sprinkle with buttered crumbs.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and the top has nicely browned. Serve warm.
Thanks so much to all of you who purchased my Christmas Cook-booklet yesterday. I do hope that you are enjoying it! If you happened to miss it and are interested, you will find all of the information about it up on the right hand side of my page. I think it's a real fun little book.