The Italian cousin of kale is the perfect accompaniment to delicious roast chicken – here's how Melanie Johnson makes it work to give a twist on a traditional Sunday roast.

Cavolo nero is the robust, Italian cousin of kale. The dark leaves are a dramatic mass of wrinkles and boiled, steamed, fried or raw, it’s delicious.

Roast spatchcocked chicken with cavolo nero and pearl-barley risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250g pearl barley
  • 200ml red wine
  • 500ml hot chicken stock
  • 3 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 150g (4 long leaves) cavolo nero, washed and shredded
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 3 crushed cloves garlic
  • 1 spatchcock chicken
  • Sea salt
  • 50ml double cream
  • Parmesan, rocket and extra-virgin olive oil to serve

Method

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6. Put the pearl barley and red wine into an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the spatchcocked chicken, then add the chicken stock until the pearl barley is covered. Place the dish in the oven while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a bowl, combine the red onions, cavolo nero, herbs and garlic with olive oil. Mix well, ensuring that everything is coated, and set aside.

Rub the chicken with olive oil and scatter with sea salt. Remove the risotto dish from the oven and lower the temperature to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Pour the vegetables, including the oil, in with the pearl barley, mix really well and add a little more chicken stock. Place the chicken on top and roast for about 50 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Stir the cream through the risotto, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, a few lightly dressed rocket leaves and a little extra-virgin olive oil. Carve the chicken and serve.

More ways with cavolo nero

spatchcocked chicken with cavolo neroCavolo nero Caesar salad

Remove the stem from 3 long leaves of cavolo nero and slice into thin ribbons. Drop into a pan of boiling water for about 30 seconds, then refresh in a colan-der under cold running water. Leave to drain while you prepare the dressing. Process an avocado with the juice and zest from
1 lemon, a splash of olive oil, 2 fresh anchovy fillets, 50g of grated Parmesan and seasoning. Add a little more lemon to loosen, if needed. Squeeze any excess water out of the cavolo nero and pour over the dressing, mixing well to ensure an even coating. Top with a few sourdough croutons and serve.

A simple side of cavolo nero

Steam finely shredded cavolo nero and, once tender – but not entirely collapsed – stir in a little butter, crispy bacon pieces and a drizzle of double cream. Hard to beat.

Roasted new potatoes with rosemary, walnuts and cavolo nero

In an oven dish, toss new potatoes in olive oil with a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a sprinkling of sea salt. Roast for about 40 minutes, depending on size, until tender. Meanwhile, blitz together 100ml of Greek yoghurt, 50g of walnuts, a splash of olive oil, a handful of blanched cavolo nero and a generous amount of seasoning. Drizzle over the new potatoes and scatter with pomegranate seeds. Perfect with any roast meat.