It’s grim out there. A rainy, windswept tundra. There’s not a lot growing on the allotment at the moment, and what’s more it’s months before I even get to plant most of my next crops, let alone eat them.
Dare I say it, I’m even starting to get a little bored of parsnips for tea. Luckily all is not lost, for in the corner of the plot, standing tall, is a plucky little survivor.
Feast your eyes on my Cavolo Nero, a tough and perky Italian cabbage. It’s related to good old British curly kale but it’s somehow showier, a bit flash. A touch more extrovert. Whereas the humble British cabbage gets on with growing in a sensible, modest and compact ball of leaves, this gaudy braggard puffs out its leaves in a boastful show of frippery and egotism.
Like I say, Italian.
Still, it tastes delicious. Before I give you the recipe below, modesty compels me to add a little caveat. The pasta sauce is undeniably mouth-watering, but it is essentially a base of garlic, cream and parmesan with some cabbage added. Quite frankly you could add my youngest son’s underpants to a base of garlic, cream and parmesan and I’d still eat it.
And one last thing: make sure you check carefully inside those adorably frilly leaves. I make this pasta dish for one ever since Mrs Drooling found a cutsey little caterpillar curled up inside a mouthful of her serving last year.
Cavolo Nero pasta
A large bunch of cavolo nero leaves, thick stalks removed
200ml single cream or crème fraiche
A large handful of grated parmesan
Two cloves of garlic
Small green caterpillar (optional)
Cook your pasta. While it is cooking fry the chopped garlic in a little olive oil. After a couple of minutes add the chopped cavolo nero. It will wilt in a few minutes. Add the cream and let it bubble gently until the pasta is ready.
Drain the pasta, saving a couple of tablespoons of water, and mix the pasta, sauce, cheese together. It can get a bit claggy, so use the cooking water from the pasta to loosen it until you get just the right consistency for your tastebuds.
On the ipod while cooking: Verdi / La donna e mobile. Flighty? Don’t get me started: she wouldn’t even eat a caterpillar!