Saturday 22 January 2011

Polenta with Cavolo Nero

Today I made another dish using soft polenta - our latest culinary discovery. This time I made it with home-grown Cavolo Nero.

This is a dish that I have invented myself, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Plenty".

100g Polenta meal
600ml Water
Cavolo Nero - a "slack handful" (approx one cupful once prepared?) - leaves stripped from stalks and lightly cooked beforehand (I used a whole small head, as per picture above)
Half a medium red onion, fried until crisp
30g walnuts, toasted in walnut oil or similar (you could also use pine-nuts or almonds)
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
25g butter
4 small Spring Onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (I find that polenta needs a lot of salt)

  • Heat the (salted) water in a pan, to boiling point
  • Stir in the polenta very slowly, using a wooden spoon
  • Once the polenta is blended-in, add the butter and parmesan cheese
  • Cook over a low heat for approx 5 minutes, stirring constantly to keep it smooth
  • If required, add a little more water to stop it going too gloopy. Ottolenghi says that the consistency of the polenta needs to be "like thick porridge". The same consistency as mashed potato maybe?
  • Stir in the cooked Cavolo Nero and fried onion, aiming to distribute them evenly throughout the polenta
  • When the polenta is ready, transfer it to to individual plates or bowls
  • Garnish with the toasted walnut, broken into convenient pieces, and the Spring Onions

Serving suggestion
I served mine with toasted home-made bread, with garlic butter (and a bottle of Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc).
If I had had any I would also have served some crunchy Romaine lettuce as a side dish...

OK, finally a little admission: there were some lumps in the polenta, despite my efforts to prevent this. Who knows how to avoid this? Can you please advise...?

[For more on growing and cooking Cavolo Nero, please see my post of 26 September 2010, and for some "arty" photos have a look at my post called Surface tension on 27 January 2011.]

This is a P.S. just to include a mention of Appalachian Feet, where you will find links to lots more lovely blogs! Thanks to Eliza for hosting this blogpost in another amazing issue of How To Find Great Plants.


  1. I love cavolo nero and every new recipe that it includes it is very precious to me.
    Thanks Mark!
    Regarding the lumps, I am not sure, that happens to me too.

  2. Can't advise on polenta, I'm afraid. Although I love pretty much everything grain and vegetable, I cannot stand the taste of polenta. Kale however is like nectar to me, so I wonder if mashed potato or lentils would do instead.

  3. Looks yummy, Mark! I love surfing over to your blog. You always cook such interesting things with what you grow AND you grow such interesting (and many times unknown to me) vegetables :) I've never heard of Cavolo Nero but it looks delicious! Not sure we can get that here, but I imagine kale would be a great substitute. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Looks an interestng dish. I've never tried cavolo nero; it looks tasty.

  5. Do you know that years ago a friend and I were in a restaurant and saw cavolo nero on the menu... for some reason the only idea we could come up with was that it might be squid ink... because of the nero.

    Thank you for clearing that up, and demonstrating that cavolo nero is quite clearly not squid ink.

    Alas I cannot help you with the polenta either, except to say that I do mine the other way around, ie adding the water to the polenta, no stirring.

    Your recipe looks lovely and creamy, I really am coming to dinner one day you know :)

  6. Hmmm; So does no-one know how to avoid getting lumps in polenta then?

    Ali, you say you add water to the polenta, rather than the other way round. Is it hot or cold water? And does it make lumps or not? Maybe it is like "slaking" flour - you have to use cold water for that.

    Diane; Cavolo Nero is effectively a type of kale. You could use ordinary kale for my recipe, I'm sure - or even spinach.

    Linda; I'm surprised to find someone who dislikes polenta! To my mind, it's fairly bland, and needs other things to flavour it, but then we all like different things, don't we? I reckon kale and lentils would be a great combination.

    Vrtlarica; you must share some of your Cavolo Nero recipes with us! Sounds like you must have a lot.

    Kelli; maybe my recipe could be considered a bit like the Irish Champ???

  7. Mmmm that looks good. I have never even eaten kale and can't wait to try it. I bought myself a pack of seeds, so this year is the go. I do the polenta your way and don't get lumps. My only advice is to continuously stir and have on a low heat. But it sounds like you did that.

  8. I am going to have a go at that recipe too, Mark. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Mark, I think I am thinking of couscous!!

  10. Ali; I can think of worse things to think of...
    Now you've got me thinking of Moroccan lamb tagine - with couscous of course!

  11. Mark,
    I don't have written down recipes for Cavolo nero. I just look in the refrigerator what I have and make a new recipe... Sometime with bacon, or feta cheese, or only garlic and olive oil, or some other vegetable like beans and peas. I prefer Cavolo nero sauteed much more that cooked in boiling water. In water it looses most of the aroma. However, I always remove the central stem of the leaves. It is just too woody. Stems I usually chop in small pieces and add to vegetable soup.

  12. I don't plan to grow Cavalo Nere this year, though I may still change my mind, but you do have me wondering whether I could grow my Purple Sprouting Broccoli in my legumes bed rather than in a separate "over wintering brassicas" patch as I had planned. So much to learn...

  13. Yum! Looks delicious-thanks for sharing the recipe!


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