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New ingredient discoveries: collards' English cousin, cavolo nero, and blood orange juice

Here's a few random bits and pieces I've been cooking lately, with varying levels of success.  (I know, right - with an introduction like that, you can't help but muster the enthusiasm to read on!)

As you may know, I'm English, so I'm always discovering new food traditions from over the other side of the pond. One of them is the idea of collard greens. I've been reading about collard greens on American vegan blogs and how much people have been singing their praises (I've always fancied the collard wraps on Food Feud in particular), and always wondered where I could get some of them.

Then I worked out that collard greens are not some exotic food stuff I'd have to have imported from across the Atlantic. Turns out spring greens are a very close relative to those collards, so with my new discovery in mind, I've been revisiting all those collard recipes I fancied.

One of them was this recipe from the New York Times which is just a stew of collards with carrots, onions, molasses and black eyed beans.

I've cooked it a million times since first discovering it, and I've adapted it to this so simple it's-almost-not-a-recipe recipe: chop up onion, put in pyrex dish with a bit of oil and put in an oven preheated to 200C. When the onions are softened, add a chopped carrot, half a chopped yellow pepper, a finely chopped chipotle pepper, a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses, and barely cover the whole lot with vegetable stock. Cover and cook til the veggies are fork tender. Then, mix a heaped teaspoon of cornflour and a dessertspoon or two of water, then pour mix into the stew and stir well. Put back in the oven for a few minutes then serve it all up.

The next elusive ingredient that I discovered was blood orange juice. I found it at a health food store in South London, and remembered that I'd had a recipe for ages that required it. (It's a Guardian recipe and you can find it here, though you do have to scroll through a load of non-vegan recipes first, alas.)

It's mix of broccoli, spring greens, avocado and (not in the original recipe but in mine!) fennel, in a perky ginger, soy, and blood orange dressing.

For a wintery salad, it was really full of flavour - zingy citrus and irony greens, with a creamy avocado to smooth it all out on top.

Another ingredient I find it hard to get hold of is cavolo nero. The nearest place to me where you can get it is a supermarket a few tube stops away. Handily enough, it's also the place where I get my hair cut, so last time I was in for a chop, I stopped off to get some with the idea of cooking a pasta recipe I've had for a while.

Here's the recipe on the Telegraph site: it's a simple one, with the sauce made with blended cavolo nero, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic. The original recipe calls for parmesan too, but I subbed that with a bit of nooch, and chucked in some chick peas for good measure.

Only, when I served it all up, it had no taste at all. I added some white miso and chilli sauce to try and liven it up a bit, but to no avail - it was like pesto only with all the flavour knocked out of it. Dammit.

Oddly enough, when I defrosted a portion of pasta that I'd frozen earlier for lunch, it was all reassuring and bouncy - some crazy alchemy rescued it in the freezer. Magic!

So, three new ingredients, three successes (you think it should be two and a half? Fair point!) I will never pass a new brand of greens without giving it a salute - and chucking a bunch in my shopping basket.

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  1. love kale (and have had success with kale pesto), love blood orange but sadly your spring greens are as much of a mystery to me as collard greens - wonder if they hide under a different name in Australia or we just don't have them? that salad looks amazing too

  2. I'm on a green food kick at the moment inthe lead up to Christmas. It's been more spinach/ kale/ brocoli though - will have to check these others out!

  3. Collard greens are pretty useful as wraps. I also sautéed them as a side dish with grits. Southern cuisine uses collard greens. I’m so glad that you found something similar to collard greens - the green salad you made looked gorgeous with the avocado!

  4. It's fun trying new ingredients! Most veggies, like most people, are all distant relatives ;)

  5. Cavolo nero? That's a new one to me. I love using collards, but there was a time when I couldn't even look at them. Planted in the garden, they grow like weeds, and even sometimes come back the next year. After a particularly successful gardening experience, and an extreme amount of collard eating, just the sight of them would set me on edge. I'm fully recovered now and enjoying them again.

  6. I'll have to look up cavolo nero - never heard of it. Good job for stretching beyond your comfort zone! My fave dish on this post, I think, is that delicious looking salad!

  7. It's fun to try new ingredients especially when they come out as yummy looking as these dishes. I've never heard of cavolo nero before but I love the color of that pasta. :-)


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