Monday 6 October 2014

Green is good: Kale bowl

Back from my amazing trip from Portugal, I was blessed with a few more days off and decided to go home home. Home is the place I rest my head in Dublin. Home home is at my parents' place, an hour out of the city and a million miles away from the frantic and often times stressful pace of the big smoke.
I had the house, dogs, bike and garden to myself. The sun shone on for those few days and I lay out in the garden soaking up the last rays of summer and saying goodbye to my favourite season of the year. September is bitter sweet for me. The days are long enough to enjoy being outdoors. If I wear a warm scarf, I can pretend it's still toasty while I cycle my bike and the temperature drops each week with cooler gusts of air whipping my hair around. Harvest time gives me goosebumps with the sheer abundance that nature lands at our feet. Sloes, blackberries, rosehips, hawthorns, mushrooms. The list goes on. It's the last part of nature's business before it all slows down.

That's the part I find most difficult. Summer is a flurry of events in the sun. Socializing outside is the order of the day. Taking off your shoes in the park is common sense and the beautiful, grounding feeling of the souls of your feet being tickled by the soothing fresh grass is bliss. Warm shoulders and softened muscles. Spontaneous barbeques and outdoor cinemas. It's a busy time, our Irish summers but it's free. September holds on but October whips up storms and rainy spells that cast shadows over the open parks and trees and fields and all the other places we took time to sit and just be, right under the sun. I'm usually not one for transitioning all that well. This Autumn, it turns out that I'm sick too. Resting, reducing activity and exercises, working less hours, and generally slowing down to just above the minimum is what the doctor has ordered. Guess what? I don't take well to slowing down and just being, not in Winter. Winter, for me, is a time to keep busy until summer is finished with.

So here I am. Hence the kale bowl. I can sleep, resist the gym's temptation for a while and not go out as much but the main thing that really gets me in winter is that normally I rest in the garden, surrounded by lucious greens and colours and sweet-smelling, visually soothing plants. Harvest is nearly over. This weekend will be the last of the herbs. All the veggies are finished. If greens and fresh fruit and veg and colours are meant to improve my health, how am I going to do that in winter?

This kale bowl is the answer. Salads are great for all their freshness but they are honestly the last thing I feel like when there is a gale outside and the window panes are lashed with rain torrents. The kale is still uncooked but by massaging it, it softens slightly and the heat of the freshly cooked rice heats it through easily. Almonds, coconut oil, turmeric and chilli flakes all provide heat to kick the body into warmth. Kale, fresh and raw is a complete superfood but cooked turns into a pathetic mush of dark green. Sitting eating my green bowl of goodness, I couldn't help but feel soothed and warmed and cared for as I looked out at that crisp wind sneaking into people's jackets as they wrapped their coats around tighter.

Serves 2
1 cup of short grain brown rice
4 large handfuls of fresh black kale (cavolo nero)
1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp each turmeric, chilli flakes
2 tsp soy sauce
10 whole almonds (lightly toasted or soaked overnight in water)

Optional topping:
Toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Sprouts: Brocolli, radish or alfalfa work great

The night before if you can, soak your almonds in cold water. This reactivates them and they are more nutritious. Alternatively, you can toast them on an oven tray at 120 degrees C for about 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.
In a small pot, measure out 1 cup of rice and just over 2 cups of cold water. Place on small heat and once the water comes to a boil simmer for 40 minutes or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, trim your kale by folding each leaf in half and slicing out the stalk. Shred the leaves roughly and place in a bowl. Add spices and coconut oil and mix/massage with your hands for a few minutes until the leaves are coated and softened. Once cooked, add the rice to the kale and stir through with the soy sauce. Top with almonds and sprouts if you prefer.

I served this with simply roasted squash but serving it with fish, soup or other veg would be great even though it is incredibly yummy on its own.

Make sure to look after yourself and keep those greens going to keep you healthy.


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