It takes at least the first frost of the year, quite a few frosts really, to get sweet cavolo nero and kale. Which makes these chips more delicious in winter than summer. You can use other ground spices, but I wouldn’t because most just get in the way of the kale flavour.
- 1 long red chilli
- cavolo nero (or another flat variety of kale such as red Russian), well washed
- extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Toast chilli in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes or until quite dry and just starting to colour. You can also do this in the oven as it warms. Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, pound until quite fine, adding a little sea salt if necessary to help grind it. You want the chilli mixed with 1 tbsp salt (or to taste) by the time it’s made, so you’ll have plenty of this chilli salt for other uses, too.
Remove the fat, central spine from cavolo nero, then tear or cut into pieces roughly 5cm wide and 10cm long. Place in a bowl, add a few drops of oil and, using your fingertips, very lightly toss each leaf until lightly coated. Sprinkle with a little chilli salt – not too much as the cavolo nero becomes very fine and light once cooked – and lay leaves out on oven trays lined with baking paper. I tend to add another sprinkling of chilli salt at this stage, too.
Bake cavolo nero for 5 minutes or until it starts to change texture and become crisp. If it goes brown, it is scorched and probably won’t taste so flash, so it is best to check it often. Remove from the oven, cool for a minute, then very gently transfer to a platter. Serve immediately as it won’t keep.
Photography Alan Benson