Last week, I found out that my neighbour is a forager and spends most of his week-ends with friends by the sea-side where they proudly grow all sorts. We have been living in good neighbourly harmony for the pass ten years. I pick his parcels up, he returns the favour and we smile nicely at one another.
Once, he invited us to his new-year's fancy dress party themed around London tube lines. I think we were a bit of a disappointment. We both arrived dressed in black pretending to be the Northern line, looking like misery, in the midst of dancing angels and Seven Sisters.
Lately, we have been exchanging a series of brief e-mails about a local issue. I guess he picked up on my signature. Realising that he lived next door to an author and a food writer, his overture lengthened, "There you are! there is so much I'd like to talk to you about" he said the last time we bumped into one another.
Next thing I knew, we were exchanging tips about restaurants, cheeses, local markets and looking at his Mark Hix's books collection; suddenly we were talking ten to the dozen as if we had known each other for.......a decade.
I left his company with a sense of bewilderment, clutching a bag full of sea kale, his friends had worked hard to grow from seeds. It occurred to me that I did not have a clue who my neighbourg really was but moreover I didn't know to how to cook sea kale without Him looking suspiciously at yet another curious ingredient.
Sea kale grows on shingle beaches but be aware, for the past 30 years, crops have been under specific protection under the wildlife and countryside act, making collection without the landowners permission illegal. It is sold on farmers market in February and March.
In culinary terms, it goes way back, 500 years or so, at one point it was a popular garden plant. Taste-wise it could be chard's cousin only more pungent, its most common use is as a blanched vegetable.
Blanching is best know associated with rhubarb. Blanched vegetables have a more delicate flavour as they are grown deprived of light which produces chlorophyll and gives colour. In crude term, they are forced to grow in the dark, in special enclosed environments or with a bucket over their head.
If you wonder what I did with my gift, here is the recipe I chose rostis slightly boring as you sea-kale makes for a weird and wonderful addition to so much more but nevertheless delicious.
Sea Kale Rostis
- sea kale steamed and chopped
- a couple of potatoes boiled and mashed
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 egg (beaten)
- salt & pepper
Prepare the vegetables
In a bowl mix the chopped sea Kale, potatoes together, beat in the egg, add flour and seasoning.
Make little ball with the mixture, flatten them slightly and fry them in hot oil.
If you wanted to know more about foraging, do take a look at Galloway Wild Foods, Mark Williams' great site.