Maybe it's just me, but at the moment it feels like everyone and their dog is extolling the virtues of kale.
From endless articles featured on left-wing newspapers (I'll name no names), to its growing presence on the menus of hip Scottish restaurants, it seems that the nation - and especially the younger generation - is starting to pay more attention to the green superfood.
Recently, one of my colleagues started a health kick and introduced meat back into her diet after many years of vegetarianism. So, in return, as a dedicated carnivore I decided to recreate and eat something from the comprehensive vegetable pages of the Glasgow Cookbook.
Reading up on my chosen recipe - sea kale au gratin - I was interested to note that kale's nutritional value is almost completely unchanged by its method of cooking. Aside from boiling, the stuff can be steamed or microwaved and still boasts exceptionally high quantities of beta carotene, vitamin K, C and calcium. But I was also interested to discover how it was cooked back in the day.
I'd just missed the boat when buying kale indigenous to the UK (its season runs from September to February), and indeed the hunt for the specifically sea variety proved more than a little problematic. After much traipsing around supermarkets, I admitted defeat and went with curly - not exactly right, but almost the same.
I began by washing the kale then boiling it in salty water. After what I'd read about steaming being the superior method of cooking, it wasn't the ideal choice health-wise - and let's not even mention that adding a shed-load of cheese was soon to come. So, while the kale boiled, I got to work on the 'foundation sauce'. From the guide, I gather that foundation sauce is much the same as white sauce. Adding cheese and mustard afterwards, it is a glorious tasting thing.
Spooning the drained kale into an ovenproof tin (I used the kind you'd bake a lemon drizzle loaf in), I added the cheese sauce afterwards, followed by the breadcrumbs, some more grated cheese and knobs of butter.
The recipe recommended I use a pound of kale. I'm not exactly sure who's got an oven big enough to accommodate the number of dishes that could hold that amount of kale au gratin but I doctored the measurements of everything else in order to use most of a big bag (around 200g). With the leftover greens, I threw them onto a baking tray, drizzled in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and roasted to make easy kale crisps to snack on later.
After being grilled in the oven for 15 minutes, my gratin and crisps were ready. And my verdict? By a country mile the most delicious forgotten recipe so far, and possibly the best thing I've eaten this year. The equal match of saltiness and creaminess made for an otherworldly taste experience.
These are about as far from the much-hated greens of childhood memories as it is possible to be. Try them for yourself.
Sea kale au gratin
1 lb sea kale
2 tablespoons grated cheese
I tablespoons breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
½ oz butter
½ pint cheese sauce (see below for recipe)
For the cheese sauce (foundation sauce plus cheese sauce)
1 ¾ oz butter
1 ¾ oz flour
1 pint liquid (milk or water, or mixture; or fish or meat stock)
1. Put all ingredients into a pan
2. Stir constantly over a very gentle heat until boiling. Cook 5 mins
Add to ½ pint of foundation sauce: 2-3 oz grated cheese, ½ teaspoonful mustard
1 Wash and trim the sea kale and tie in bundles
2 Cook till tender in a little boiling salted water with a squeeze of lemon juice added.
3 Drain well and remove string
4 Place sea kale in a fireproof dish; coat with cheese sauce
5 Mix together grated cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top. Season. Dot with butter.
6 Heat through in oven or brown under grill