I was so sad as the summer was ending because, among other reasons, I love the produce. However, this sadness quickly passed when I realized that kale was back in town… along with the most delicious apples, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower… the list goes on. But seriously, the KALE. I was never much on the kale bandwagon before, but probably because it is generally hard to find in Brussels. You have to know where to look. Anyhow, I recently discovered a market that sells organic, locally produced kale for months on end, and I couldn’t be happier. It is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, with an abundance of vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium, and even protein! Read up on it, and prepare to have your mind blown. I felt a cold coming on in a big way over a week ago, and I am convinced that it is thanks to eating fistfuls of kale at almost every meal for about 5 days, that not only is this cold a thing of the past, but I am buzzing with extra energy.
Now, I have to give you a little background on why getting over a cold so quickly is such a big deal for me. Digestive issues had generally left me steadily lethargic for a good few years, and having two children in quick succession didn’t really help. To top it off, shortly after my daughter was born in 2013, I developed a bad case of pneumonia. It was a very rough period- it took about 3 months for me to get to a place where it didn’t hurt my lungs to breath, and for the next year and a half after that, I would develop a cold/flu almost every other month, that would last for several weeks. I was basically always sick. And I mean sick- feverish, weak, coughing- a cold was never just a cold- it was bronchitis, a sinus infection, an ear infection. It turned me into a paranoid freak about my health; when I felt myself getting the sniffles a few weeks ago, I felt like it was the beginning of my doom. So I find it nothing short of miraculous that I nipped it in the bud so quickly. The only thing I did differently was eat a crap load of kale. And now I feel strong and amazing. So, the moral of this story is – EAT KALE – as much as you can fit in your face during these winter months. Your body will thank you! (Just massage it with your hands for a few minutes before eating- it softens the thick fibres, making it more digestible).
All that said and done, this recipe wasn’t inspired by kale. Kale just goes with everything – it is a leafy green, sure, but it is a meaty, and I find, perfectly cozy vegetable that goes with everything. The idea for this recipe was inspired by the memory of eating lots of ratatouille during the summer. I love aubergines—they are savoury and melt in your mouth when prepared well—and I recently hit the jackpot with these amazing Santana apples- they are so good. If you know Plato and his forms, well, these apples, to me, are Apple. They are perfect. So it seemed like a great combination. And the sage, well, look at it. It’s velvety to the touch and smells heavenly. As luck would have it, I was not wrong to put these things together. This meal is savoury and bursting with flavour. How can anyone choose to eat junk food when real, seasonal food is so flavourful and so easy to prepare?
- 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
- Juice of one lemon
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of crushed sea salt and black pepper
- 4 chicken breasts
- 3 leeks, white parts only
- 3 cups of kale, washed, massaged, and torn into pieces, stems removed.
- 2 tbsp duck fat, or another healthy fat like coconut oil
- 3 apples
- 1 large or two small parsnips
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 tsp powdered curcuma (turmeric)
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp saffron
- approximately 10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Whisk the first 7 ingredients together, and pour into a plastic freezer bag. Place the chicken inside, seal, and shake around. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4 hours, but ideally up to 24 hours.
- Peel and dice the apples, parsnip, and aubergine into small squares. Using a medium sized pot, heat the fat on low heat, preferably on the smallest element on the stove, and throw in the ingredients including the remaining spices. Mix gently with a wooden spoon, and stir occasionally for about 10-15 minutes. Once everything has softened, keep it on the heat for anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how powerful your stove is. The idea is to let the flavours slowly marry together.
- When you're ready to bake your chicken, preheat your oven to 180/350. Wash the leeks and cut into a chiffonade- make two cuts lengthewise, so they are divided into four, and then chop horizontally. Place the leeks and the kale in the bottom of a large baking dish. Pour the marinade from the chicken on top of the vegetables, and place the chicken on top. Make sure the vegetables are well coated with the marinade. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
- When everything is ready, portion the leeks and kale onto plates, placing the chicken on top. Add a generous scoop of the apple, parsnip, and aubergine confit beside it, and ta da! Prepare for a very cozy and healthy feast, fit for a queen. Even if it’s just a Thursday night and you’re wearing your sweat pants.