Well, we're back from our holidays and its time to start prioritising our health and fitness levels again. So I thought I'd start the year with a great underused vegetable which is in the height of its season... Kale
The Star Ingredient: Healthy Eating with Kale
Its often hard to find kale in supermarkets so I was half tempted not to put it in but most good fruit and vegetable shops and farmers markets sell kale at this time of year. The reason I decided to include it is we are all feeling a bit 'post Christmas' at the moment and kale offers the most nutrition for fewer calories than most veggies so is up there in terms of healthy eating!!!
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica or cruciferous family a group of vegetables including cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli (remember that newsletter!!!!). These vegetables are gaining widespread attention due to their health promoting, sulfur-containing phytonutrients. In terms of health, kale is a huge source of Vitamin K, and an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and Manganese. Also, like most vegetables, it is a good source of fibre.
In terms of phytonutrients (powerful antioxidants) there are 2 main areas of interest. Firstly, the sulfur containing phytonutrients have been linked to boosting the livers detox pathways thus neutralising potentially carcinogenic substances and thus can be cancer protective. Secondly, kale is one of the most concentrated forms of lutein which is linked to reduced risk of cataracts.
You can get several varieties of kale but I've seen mostly curly kale or purple kale here. When selecting kale, chose leaves that are firm, bright and deeply coloured leaves, along with moist hardy stems. The smaller leaves have slightly milder, sweeter flavour than the larger leaves.
Store kale in the fridge and wrap tightly in a plastic bag. Do not wash before putting it into fridge - only upon use.
To prepare, chop as finely as possible. Leave on the chopping board for 5-10 mins before heating to allow the 'myrosinase' in the leaf to activate the nutrients! If you find any hard or thick steams, it may be easier to discard. Otherwise eat the stems with the leaf.
When cooking kale, do not overcook (generally found when colour changes significantly or starts to smell eggy). I find chopping finely and steaming for 5 mins works best. You can also saute on a medium heat in a saucepan for around 5 minutes in a drop of water. If adding it to a dish, add in the last few minutes of the cooking process.
Don't forget you can have kale raw - chopped finely in a salad, whizzed up to make a kale pesto or add to a fruit smoothie to make it a super smoothie! Try to buy organic if possible.
Try to eat 3-5 portions a week of these super vegetables to your healthy eating plan.
Kale can be a great side dish for a main meal in the evenings or simply added in at the end of a soup, stew or stir fry. I've included both below.
Healthy recipes: Coconut, lentil and kale soup
I adore this soup and never realised that soy sauce with coconut milk would provide such a yummy result! If you are ever stuck with which legumes to use in a dish, lentils are great in that they don't need soaking or pre cooking (handy!)
|150g/6oz puy lentils
1 litre/1½ pint water
1 onion, chopped
2 fat garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
250ml/9fl oz canned coconut milk
2-3 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 small handfuls of Kale, about 50g/2oz
freshly ground black pepper
|Rinse the lentils well or soak for 10 minutes.
Saute the chopped onion in a large saucepan in a little water for 5-10 mins.
Then add the lentils and enough cold water to just cover.
Boil for ten minutes, then add the remaining ingredients, except the kale and salt.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender
Add the kale at the last minute a stir through for a few minutes.
Add the salt to taste.
Serve immediately with warm flatbread, pita or naan.
My healthy eating tip for this week is don't be afraid to add coconut milk to your curries or stir fries. Many people are worried about its saturated fat content but about 60% of the saturated fats in coconut milk are actually medium chain fatty acids which are more likely to be used for evergy rather than stored!!
Healthy Eating recipe: Kale with chickpeas, soy, chilli and garlic
I've adapted this recipe from The River Cottage Diary I was given for Christmas. There may be a few more adaptations throughout the year! You can have this as a light supper for 2, use is as a side dish for a nice curry, or make a full meal by placing on a bed of brown or wild rice.
|1 tin of chickpeas
1 onion, sliced
200g curly kale
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1 finely sliced chilli
2 tbsp soy sauce
freshly cracked pepper
|Rinse the chickpeas well.
Saute the chopped onion in a wok or large saucepan in a little water for 5-10 mins.
Add the chickpeas and cook for 2 mins.
Then add the kale and cook for a further 3 mins.
Add the garlic, chilli and soy sauce and stir in, allowing to cook for another 2 mins.
Remove from heat and serve straight away - sprinkle with a little black pepper.
My healthy resource for this issue is actually the River Cottage website. Its packed full of great seasonal recipes and everything you need to know about going sustainable and growing your own! http://rivercottage.net/
P.S. I'm starting to put my Spring schedule together so pop into the 'What's coming up' section to find out more...