Braised Kale with buckwheat and bratwurst is a satisfying winter dish, all cooked up in one pot. The kale is toothsome and tender, the buckwheat becomes creamy and nutty, and the savoury bites of sausage add pops of smoky flavour. It's not only delicious, but loaded with nutrition for a hearty, comfort-food dinner. (Skip to recipe.)
Long before kale salad and kale chips became wildly popular hot new food trends, this hearty vegetable from the cabbage family was a winter mainstay for everyday farm folk in many parts of Europe, slowly simmered into soft, chewy deliciousness. Sometimes it had some onion in it, or a few chunks of bacon, sometimes it was cooked with a link of smoked sausage or a ham hock. Other times it had a handful of grains thrown in to add substance.
But raw? I never knew you could eat kale raw until a few years ago. Our family has since embraced the delights of this chewy green, sliced into ribbons and massaged into bright emerald submission, then tossed with a tangy dressing and whatever nibbles of fruity or seedy bits you can find. Raymond claims that my version of kale salad is his favourite salad of all time. And I love it, too.
But every now and then I crave a dish of kale like the stuff I grew up on; a big dish of juicy braised kale, hearty and rib-sticking, somehow light and satisfying at the same time. Mom would cook up armfuls of green kale leaves in the fall, with soft little nubbins of buckwheat making the dish creamy. Sometimes she'd add in bits of sausage or bacon, sometimes she just cooked it plain. She'd freeze up bags of this and we'd have it often throughout the winter. I took it for granted. Kale was just part of an everyday farm dinner, a mess of healthy cooked greens that mom served because it was good for us.
We didn't care that kale was a superfood, loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, and minerals. And the fact that those little buckwheat kernels were high-fiber, low-glycemic, and good for our cardiovascular systems didn't impress us one little bit. We just ate what was on our plates so we could run back out and play.
And now? Now I crave a big bowl of that toothsome kale, soft, but still slightly chewy, with its sweet-bitter cabbage flavour. Onions add another layer of sweetness, and a bit of smoky sausage adds a rich meaty overtone. (Although mom often made it without the meat, too.) Buckwheat groats cook down into silky nubbins, melding the dish into a creamy whole, and the bright green curly kale leaves turn into a rich khaki-coloured tangle of flavour. It doesn't have the intense emerald colour of a quickly-sautéed pan of kale, but the earthy tones have a beauty of their own, and this simple, hearty country dish nourishes and comforts.
How to Cook Up a Mess of Braised Kale
Tear the kale leaves off the stems (this part is fun and easy). Rip them into bite-sized pieces.
Chop an onion and slice up a smoked sausage. Then fry them up until they get nicely browned and crispy. Add in the kale.
Then sprinkle on a handful of buckwheat groats and a slosh of water.
Cover the pot and go read your book. You can come back and give it a stir now and then.
What's so great about this dish?
- only 5 ingredients (plus water, salt, and pepper)
- high in fiber
- loaded with nutrients
- a great winter dinner for two
- easily multiplied to feed more
- belly-filling comfort food
The winter winds can howl or the dreary rains can drizzle, but when I'm inside all toasty and warm, with a bowl of braised kale in front of me and a book to curl up with afterwards, life feels pretty good.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: If you're multiplying this recipe for more servings, start with a bigger pot, or add the kale in batches, letting each wilt down before adding some more.
- 1 bunch (6 to 7 large leaves) kale, washed and dried
- 1 link (6"/120gms) smoked bratwurst
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
- ½ of a medium onion, chopped
- ¼ cup whole buckwheat groats
- 1½ cups (360ml) water
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- a pinch of pepper
Strip the kale leaves from their stalks and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed small dutch oven or deep skillet.
Slice the bratwurst link into coins. Sauté them in the oil until lightly browned. Add the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent.
Add the torn kale. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the kale is wilted and bright green.
Add the buckwheat, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Cook at a steady simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender and toothsome and the buckwheat is soft. There should still be a little bit of liquid in the bottom of the pot, so the dish is lusciously moist and a little bit soupy.
Serve with good grainy bread and butter, or with boiled potatoes.
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side dish.
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