Sea Kale with Morels and Butter Sauce

Sea kale – Cramba marítima – is a native English vegetable still growing wild near some sea shores. It isn’t yet cultivated widely but is available, forced like rhubarb, in late winter. With its delicate flavour and exquisite crisp texture this vegetable is an aristocrat like asparagus.

Sea kale has been neglected in the past but is now grown commercially in Brittany and is available in Britain via the Paris market at the end of February and during March. The inevitable insult will be its resurgence of popularity as that French delicacy ‘la crambe maritime‘.

Kale is anyway a misnomer, this being no brassica. Beware market men selling Swiss chard under the same name. Once separated from sprouts and cauli or new favourites kiwifruit and pawpaw, large sections of the greengrocery trade tend to become confused.

Ingredients

  • 2 sea kale
  • 2 oz (50 g) morel mushrooms
  • 1 oz (25 g) unsalted butter
  • Butter sauce
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) dry white wine
  • 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

The vegetables

  1. Sea kale looks and handles like fragile celery with white brittle stems joined at the base. These will need separating and careful washing. The stems are usually about 9 in (23 cm) long. If your plates are small or your saucepan inadequate, cut these stems into smaller lengths. Boil in plenty of salted water for 5 or 6 minutes. The stems are not at all tough so you don’t need to cook them until tender unless you particularly like them that way.
  2. Fresh morels are available at the same time as sea kale. If you are using dried then bring them to the boil in a small saucepan of water and allow to cool. Carefully wash away the inevitable grit. Only the caps are useable and they are easier to clean split in half. Melt the butter and fry the morels.

The butter sauce

  • Reduce the white wine by half in a small saucepan. Lower the heat and then whisk in the butter, piece by piece. Finish the sauce with lemon juice, salt and pepper. It should taste buttery but not greasy.

To Complete

  • Drain the sea kale well. Too much retained moisture will dilute the butter sauce. Pour on the warm sauce and then add the nutty-tasting fried morels.
  • If morels are beyond budget, use a few chopped herbs or even plain lemon and butter.
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