Cavolo nero is a traditional staple of Italian cooking.
Although brassicas have not done well this year, cavolo nero has fared better than most as it grows up along a stem. Cavolo nero (also known as Tuscan kale or black cabbage) is delicious in soups and stews, but the flavour comes through particularly well when paired with lamb, as I’ve done here. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies-any fishiness melts away entirely, leaving a delightfully mellow saltiness.
Roasted rolled leg of lamb with bagna cauda-drizzled cavolo nero (serves 6)
1.5kg-2kg leg of lamb, boned and rolled(ask your butcher to do this for you)
100g anchovy fillets in oil, drained
3 red chillies
6 cloves garlic
3 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon, juiced
30ml olive oil
300ml dry white wine
2 bulbs of garlic, halved horizontally
400g cavolo nero, central stalk discarded
For the bagna cauda
50g anchovy fillets in oil, drained
125ml olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 3. Place the anchovies, chillies, garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil into a food processor or blender and blitz to a paste. Using a palette knife or the back of a spoon, spread the paste all over the leg of lamb. Cook for one hour in a roasting tin.
After an hour of cooking, pour the wine into the roasting tin and add the four garlic-bulb halves, cut side up. Return it to the oven for another hour before taking it out and covering the lamb with foil to rest for 15 minutes.
While it’s resting, remove the garlic bulbs from the roasting tin and squeeze the cooked cloves into a small saucepan. Add the anchovies and butter and fry for a few minutes before whisking in the olive oil. Make sure you keep the bagna cauda sauce gently warmed until serving or there’s a risk it may split.
Cook the cavolo nero for 5-6 minutes in a pot of salted boiling water or until tender. Drain and return to the pot, then place it over a gentle heat to get rid of any excess water.
Serve the cavolo nero drizzled with the bagna cauda and with the lamb, using the roasting-tin juices as a gravy. Potatoes simply roasted with olive oil and rosemary would also be a good side dish.
More ways with cavolo nero
For a healthy pre-dinner snack, remove the coarse cavolo nero stems and then mix the leaves with olive oil and sea salt so they’re lightly coated. Roast in a single layer in a moderately hot oven for about eight minutes or until they’re crispy.
Blanch 300g of cavolo nero, then blend two-thirds of it with 50g of toasted pine nuts, three cloves of garlic, 100ml of olive oil and 50g of grated Parmesan to make a pesto. Boil some spaghetti, drain and toss with the cavolo-nero pesto and the remaining cooked cavolo nero. Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil and more Parmesan.
Minestrone with cavolo nero
Dice three carrots, two sticks of celery, an onion, two cloves of garlic and a large potato, and fry them in a splash of olive oil. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste, two tablespoons of pesto, two tins of tomatoes and a tin of butter beans (or an Italian bean mix), plus 200g of finely sliced cavolo nero. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables and then simmer until tender. Serve with toasted ciabatta.