Friday, 8 January 2010

Cavolo Nero Cabbage, Sprouts and Bacon with Spaghetti

After all my talk in my last post about making shopping more adventurous by selecting products based on what is most local and most fresh, I thought it would be good to show something of an example. This approach to shopping really works best for vegetables and in fact I would go as far as to say that it is the best way to buy vegetables.

So, on a typical trip to the supermarket, I will hunt around in the vegetable section to see what's good and what's not, adding things to my trolley based on freshness and and how local it appears to be. Once I feel I've investigated everything on offer, I usually have a good selection in the trolley. At this point, I'll sometimes put one or two items back if it looks like I've got more than I'll need to last me a week and make a mental note to look for them again next week. Having chosen the vegetables, I will then choose what meat to buy based on the vegetables that were available, rather than the classic method of having a pre-set menu in mind before reaching the shop.

Now, I don't deny that this approach to shopping does take longer, but I still manage to do it in the evening after getting home from work, so it really isn't too bad. Sometimes other, more focused, shoppers get a bit irate at me for constantly going backwards and forwards in the vegetable section rather than following the unwritten (and unsigned) rules for correct supermarket navigation. But, I find that by taking a little longer over the shopping, it actually becomes a more enjoyable experience and I leave the shop significantly more relaxed than if I'd been barging around.

My last shopping trip was a great example of the benefits of this process. I found two vegetables that I haven't cooked with before, both of which are British produce. These were Jerusalem Artichokes, which I'll come back to in a later post and Cavolo Nero cabbage. The cabbage just looked really exciting! It's a very dark green colour, almost black in places. It has very long, narrow leaves and the packet informed me that it was originally from Italy but is now grown in the UK. So, I couldn't really resist getting some to give it a try in something. I also picked up some spouts, also UK produce, which are really good value at the moment – I got 50% extra free! I heard somewhere that there was something of a glut in sprout production this growing season, so suppliers have been selling them off cheap to try to get rid of them. I don't know how true that is, but they do seem to be exceptionally good value at the moment, for whatever reason.

There is a very simple and very quick recipe that I find is great for using winter greens, such as cabbage, spinach or indeed spouts. I'm not entirely sure what to call it really, so I won't give it a name beyond the one I've put as the title for this post, which says precisely what it is. Wash and chop about 5 or 6 leaves of the cabbage and remove the stalks and outer leaves from a handful of sprouts. At this point, put some spaghetti into a pan of lightly salted, boiling water. The pasta I use takes about 8 to 10 minutes to cook, which is just perfect for this recipe. Chop some bacon and then fry in a little vegetable oil until it starts to go crispy at the edges. Add the cabbage and continue to fry on a high heat until it starts to wilt, stirring it around occasionally. Then, add the halved spouts and continue stirring it around for another couple of minutes. Once the spaghetti is done, drain the water away and return the pasta to the pan. Liberally pour over some extra virgin olive oil and stir it around to make sure the pasta doesn't stick together or to the sides of the pan. Add the fried bacon, cabbage and spouts and stir around. Finally, I really like to add a generous portion of pine nut kernels, which are almost certainly not British, but I just love them! I like to add a little course sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper as well. Stir it all around in the pan once or twice and then serve immediately. This really is a very fast dish to prepare – it can be done in only the time it takes the water in the pan to come to the boil and the pasta to cook through.


Anonymous said...

Hey there Doc B

Congrats on maintaining the blog. I imagined that it would have fallen by the wayside by now.

The cabbage sounds good, but I'm not sure I'd like to be sharing an office with you after you got 50% extra on the sprouts!

Looking forward to hearing about the artichokes...

Maybe we'll catch up some time in May?

Oooh, who could it be?

Dr. B said...

Hello "Anonymous" !

I think I can probably guess who you are... :-)

Thanks - I've made an effort to keep it going, but it is always encouraging to get comments! I have a few interesting food projects coming up, so watch this space.