Cavolo Nero – Was there ever such a Handsome Plant?

Cavolo Nero is such a handsome plant, and it is incredibly tasty as well.


Some of the strong green leaves remind me of a snake, the sort you see in Indian films, with the snake charmer eye to eye with this deadly creature, the tension mounting as they hypnotise each other.  And other names for it include the Prince of Wales Feather – if all the leaves stand up, they fan out at the top, just like the Feather.

This year the handsome Cavolo Nero (a variety of Kale) is growing well in our Kitchen Garden, along with its pinky-maroon curly twin, Redbor. I have earthed up each plant with a mound of good soil around its stalk to stop it falling over, being top heavy.  And this year I have given it some protection in case we succumb to the same horrendous snow of November 2010.  I know it is suppose to like a touch of frost, but the amount we had in East Yorkshire last year just decimated it!

But not this year, if I can help it!


Because I am looking forward to making the classic Cavolo Nero Recipe, the comforting Italian classic soup, Ribolitta, a Tuscan ‘Peasant’ soup of which there are so many versions, but mainly made with cannellini beans (Jamie Oliver recommends the difficult to get hold of  but small and creamy Zolfini beans) vegetables, garlic, pancetta, tomatoes, Ciabatta and Parmesan (amongst other ingredients).

But when I flicked through the pages looking for the Ribollita recipe I realised that there were many different versions – one with the bread pulped up to thicken the soup (probably the proper ‘Peasant’ way’, one with the Ciabatta slices toasted, placed on the bottom of the soup pan, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and garlic-flavoured oil then covered with the soup and baked for 25 minutes in the oven, and another with the Ciabatta oiled and toasted and placed on top of the finished soup, a la ‘French Onion Soup’!

Cavolo Nero – So strong, so tasty, so Ribollita!

So, which is it to be? All three ways sound interesting, and maybe I will try and cook and serve it as I have done with Panzanella.  Some bread cooked in the soup mix, and some more crunchy served on top?  Decisions, decisions?

Whatever happens, Ribolitta will be cooked this week in my kitchen.  I personally fancy a mix between The River Cafe recipe, Sarah Raven’s, Jamie Oliver’s and The Mediterranean Olive Oil Cookbook.  A bit of this one, a bit of that …… and at the end of it a big bowl of steaming soup.  Watch this space!

And Cavolo Nero?  Yes, I do believe it is a very Handsome plant indeed.

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