Ed Smith on the arrival of kalette season: the leafy love child of kale and brussels sprouts
If you’ve walked around the Market already this January, you may well have seen the boxes of kalettes at Ted’s Veg stall. I’d put them front and centre of my display too—these greens (and purples) are the very definition of cute and pretty. They’re also, more importantly, delicious.
Kalettes are a relatively recent ‘invention’. They were developed by a seed company as a cross between a sprout and kale about seven or eight years ago. Ted grows his on his farm in Lincolnshire.
The seed company behind them notes that kalettes are packed with vitamins—but of more interest (to me at least) is the fact that the little fellas take literally just a couple of minutes to cook. Steam, wilt, sauté, stir-fry or boil them, they seem to enjoy most forms of cooking.
I’m tempted to say that, rather unfashionably, I actually think I like the results from plain old boiling the most. There’s something particularly satisfying about the resulting texture of the brassica when it’s cooked (blanched, really) in this way. Their natural purple disappears a bit in the water, but the vivid green remains alluring. Boiling is almost certainly the quickest method; a batch of kalettes are perfectly cooked after just 60 to 90 seconds in rapidly boiling water.
It’s this blanch/boil method that I suggest you try in my first kalette related recipe. In this, the greens are tossed in a bubbling butter that’s been flavoured with anchovy, garlic and lemon. A dressing like this is definitely one of the best ways to eat any brassica, but it’s particularly good with these kalettes—I think because all those frilly edges catch and hold the big flavours, and because the butter balances with the flavour of the vegetable perfectly.
The second recipe sees them dotted among pasta shells (concha) with bacon in which they, like the shells, scoop and hold a sheen of cream cheese and wine sauce.
In terms of taste, kalettes sit somewhere between their parents. It’s not simply a small version of curly kale; there’s a light tinge of sprout in there, but none of the sulphurous odour of an overboiled one. Perhaps there’s a little sweetness too, that I find kale lacks.
Anyway, the point being, kalettes are mighty good and worth a try—and not just because they look cute.