Eat your greens

I love buying greens on a cold winter's morning. Few things are such a pleasure to cook with as a bunch of frilly kale leaves or a beautiful tight-hearted cabbage with its dusky green leaves. Yes, winter greens are healthy and hip but more importantly they just taste wonderful. The trick is to cook them as briefly as possible, if at all.

Chicken broth with kale and pork

Kale is just one possibility for bulking out this supper of pork balls and broth. You could use any heart green, such as cavolo nero or savoy cabbage. The important bit is not to overcook the greens.

Serves 3-4

For the pork balls:

minced pork - 400g
small, hot chillies - 2
spring onions - 4
garlic - 2 cloves
parsley - 6 bushy sprigs
mint - 6 bushy sprigs

For the broth:

chicken stock - 1 litre
salt and freshly ground black pepper
kale leaves - 125g

Put the pork into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the chillies and add them with their seeds to the pork. Chop the spring onions, discarding the roots and the very darkest tips of the leaves. Peel and crush the garlic and add with the spring onions to the pork. Pull the parsley and mint leaves from their stalks and chop roughly, then add to the pork mixture with a generous seasoning of salt. Mix thoroughly then roll into about 16 balls.

Warm a shallow film of oil in a non-stick pan then add the pork balls, letting them cook until they are nicely toasted on all sides.

Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil, season carefully with salt and black pepper then lower in the pork balls. Turn down the heat and let them simmer for 5-7 minutes till they are cooked through. While the balls are cooking, pull the kale leaves from their tough stalks and cook them briefly - about 1 or 2 minutes only - in boiling salted water, then drain. (Don't be tempted to do this in the stock.) Lower the kale into the soup and serve immediately.

Bean and black cabbage soup

A proper main-meal winter soup.

Serves 4

haricot beans - 200g

olive oil

bay leaves - a couple
large onion - 1
olive oil - a little
medium sized squash or small pumpkin - 1
vegetable or chicken stock - 1 litre
parsley - a small bunch, roughly chopped
cavolo nero - a couple of large handfuls

To serve: grated parmesan

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain them in a colander then put them in a deep saucepan with a glug or two of olive oil and a couple of bay leaves. Pour in enough cold water to cover and bring to the boil. Turn down to a merry simmer, skim off the froth on the surface (don't be tempted to add any salt, it will toughen the beans), then cook for a good 40 minutes or so, till tender. Check them from time to time - they should still retain some bite - then drain.

Peel the onion, chop it roughly and soften in the oil in a large, heavy casserole. Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into large chunks. Add to the onion and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Pour in the stock and let the squash simmer for about 15 minutes till soft enough to crush between your finger and thumb. Add the drained beans and the roughly chopped parsley.

Tear the cabbage into large pieces and dunk into the simmering soup. As soon as it is tender - a matter of 3 or 4 minutes, then check the seasoning and serve with grated parmesan.

Savoy cabbage with juniper and cream

Part of the point of eating cabbage is not just its loud flavour but the fact that you get to feel good about having eaten your greens. This recipe manages to temper both the stridency of flavour and one's inevitable smugness at being so good. The spiced cream with juniper and peppercorns means that this is perfect accompaniment for grilled or roast pork, though I have been known to eat it with brown rice as a main dish in itself.

Serves 4 as a side dish

spring cabbage - 400g
black peppercorns - 2 tsp
juniper berries - 2 tsp
butter - 25g
double cream - 200ml

Separate the leaves of the spring greens and shred them into finger-thick strips. I find the easiest way to do this is to pile the leaves on top of one another, then roll them up and shred them with a large knife. Bring a pan of water to the boil, salt it lightly and add the cabbage. Let it boil for barely a couple of minutes. You want the leaves to be tender enough to eat but still bright green and perky.

Meanwhile crush the peppercorns and juniper berries lightly with a pestle and mortar, or with a heavy object on a chopping board. Drain the cabbage. Return the empty pan to the heat and melt the butter in it. Toast the crushed spices in the butter for a minute or two until fragrant then pour in the cream. Leave to bubble for a minute or two, until it starts to thicken, then season with a very little salt and tip in the drained greens. Toss the vegetables in the spiced cream till they are lightly coated. Serve straight away, while the sauce is still piping hot.

Red cabbage salad with picos, pears and poppy seeds

There is something about the cool crispness of raw cabbage - white or red - that goes with blue cheeses. There are so many around now, but this is the sort of salad that will take quite a powerfully flavoured blue. I suggest picos, but Cashel blue would work well here as would Roquefort.

red cabbage - 400g
crisp white cabbage - 200g
pears - 2 (crisp rather than ripe)
picos or other blue cheese - 150-200g

For the dressing: tarragon vinegar - 1 tbs
crème fraiche - 300g
grainy mustard - 1 tbs
poppy seeds - 1 tbs

Discard any less-than crisp outer cabbage leaves and shred the heart leaves finely. I use a large knife for this, though others may prefer to find a suitable disc in their food processor's box of gadgets. Soak briefly in cold water and drain. Cut the pears into thin slices, removing the core and seeds. Mix the pears and cabbage together. Cut the cheese into thick slices, break each slice into large flat crumbs then add to the cabbage and pears.

Make the dressing by dissolving a large pinch of salt in the tarragon vinegar then stirring in the crème fraiche and grainy mustard together with a little salt and black pepper. Taste for sharpness, adding more mustard or vinegar as you wish.

Scrape the dressing into the salad and toss gently, taking care to coat all the cabbage and pears. Pile into a serving dish or divide between four plates and sprinkle the poppy seeds over.

Purple sprouting with mustard hollandaise

I have always held purple sprouting in very high esteem. So much so that I am happy to serve it as a course all by itself, complete with a slick of buttery, lemony, hollandaise sauce. In this case I have stirred in a teaspoon of mustard, too. As side dish it is at its best with steak.

Serves 2 -4 depending on the size of the sprouting

purple sprouting broccoli - 16 stalks
egg yolks - 3
grainy Dijon mustard - 1 heaped tsp
butter - 180g, melted
juice of half a lemon

Put a big pan of water on to boil for the broccoli. I trim any dry ends but never remove the leaves that sprout from the stem as they are so good to eat.

Put the egg yolks in a heatproof basin and rest it over a pan of gently simmering water. The base of the pan should not touch the water. Whisk the yolks gently (I add a dash of cold water, which seems to stop them cooking too quickly), adding the mustard as you go. Pour in the melted butter, a little at a time, whisking firmly until all of the butter is incorporated. Season with salt and a little pepper (use white if you have it) then squeeze in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl resting over the pan. While you are whisking the hollandaise put the purple sprouting on to boil. The sauce needs constant care (it must never get too hot) but you should be able to negotiate the cooking of the broccoli at the same time. It will need about 5 minutes in the salted, boiling water. It should be bright green, but quite tender.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.