I’m very serious about kale, more for practical reasons than anything else. Nutrition-wise, ubiquitous kale is hard to beat: dark, green, open leaves teaming with phytonutrients and vitamins to give us that energising nutrient kick we all crave. But this salad, in particular, lends itself to keeping fresh for almost a whole week. Unlike other salad greens, dressed kale holds up really well - just add fresh avocado and nuts.
You might have heard (correctly) that raw kale can be tricky to digest. But, by marinating it, it not only renders less of a challenge for the digestive system, it is also more nutritionally available. Chicken is optional, but the technique I use prepares a batch of cold chicken to last 3-4 days and cinnamon is currently my favourite antioxidant hero spice (don’t tell fresh ginger). I love cooking chicken or rice with a stock to boost health and flavour.
200g organic kale
1 tbsp tahini
1tbsp boiling water
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt to taste
1.25L of vegetable/ chicken stock or bouillon
½ tsp cinnamon or a stick
2 good-quality chicken breasts, skin off (Chicken will last 3-4 days, covered, in the fridge.)
1 medium sweet potato
A large handful of whole hazelnuts
1 cup of cooked quinoa (or leftover wild rice/pearl barley)
1 pomegranate, seeded or 150g of fresh pomegranate seeds
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Splash of olive oil, to serve
1. Start with the kale.
Mix 1tbsp of tahini and with 1tbsp boiling water in a jar, add the zest and the juice of the lemon, as well as some sea salt. Don’t skimp on the lemon zest here, it really makes it. Shake to combine until smooth; mixture should be pourable. Add a splash more water or olive oil if you need to.
Remove the kale leaves from their stalks and chop roughly. Place in a sealable container or bowl with the tahini lemon marinade and combine – get friendly with your salad and use your hands to toss and coat the kale.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Optional: Poach chicken
Add 1.25L of quality vegetable or chicken stock to a smallish saucepan with a tight fitting lid, along with ½ tsp powdered cinnamon or a cinnamon stick (smashed garlic or dried herbs are a great addition here too).
Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a very low heat (1/10), and immediately add the 2 chicken breasts. Cover with a lid and leave for 10 minutes. Take it out and slice it in half to check if it’s cooked through. If it isn’t ready, just pop it back in for 1-2 more minutes.
Don’t drain the poaching liquid - you’re going to need it. Remove cooked breasts and slice thinly, crossways, before refrigerating in a sealed container.
3. Boil sweet potato
Peel and cube your sweet potato. If you’ve made the cinnamon poached chicken above, simply pop the sweet potato into this liquid. If not, bring 1.25L vegetable stock to the boil with cinnamon before adding your sweet potato. Cook on moderate heat until just tender (about 9-10 minutes). Drain and let cool.
Tip: Keep the sweet potato cooking water for a warming drink or to cook grains in.
4. Toast and add nuts
Set a fan oven to 160oC and toast your hazelnuts on a baking tray. This should take about 9 minutes. I always err on the lower temperature side when roasting nuts. I find that I lose less to the God of Charcoal that way.
Remove. Cool. Chop roughly.
5. Make the salad
Slice your avocado into small pieces and gently combine with the kale.
Add cooked quinoa, poached chicken (if using), and cooled sweet potato. Zest your orange and add to the salad before cutting the fruit in half and squeezing its juice into the salad. Toss lightly. You can also add a slug of olive oil if you want a more moist salad.
To serve, add pomegranate seeds and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.
Story, recipe and styling by Josie Taylor (The Fresh Ginger); Food photography by Jonathan Short