Emperor Nero’s new clothes. Or griddled lamb, mashed chickpeas and cavalo nero

When I was about seven years old, restaurants were for special occasions only. And on my annual outing to a restaurant, there appeared to be only three things you could have as a starter in a restaurant:
  • A chilly slice of melon topped with a single glace cherry. 
  • Tomato soup. Seemingly from a tin. With a cress garnish and a granary roll. 
  • Or the absolute height of sophistication – half an avocado stuffed with prawns in a Barbie-pink sauce. 

You would follow this with a steak in a peppercorn sauce for the men or duck a l’orange for the ladies.
And, weirdly, pudding would always be a Rum Baba. I don’t really know what Rum Baba is but there’s probably no need to find out, given that this hasn’t appeared on a menu since 1982.
But my seven year old view was that my family was pretty sophisticated in our eating habits. My rationale for this being (a). that we were very early adopters of the beansprout and (b.) that we weren’t allowed to have Angel Delight (I now understand this to be because my mum thought it was “a bit common”).
It’s odd how food fashions come and go isn’t it?
When I was at university two important food events happened – pesto and the sun-dried tomato. No one could imagine a world without them today but I remember them being mysterious and slightly intimidating – what was this bright green sauce which could be stirred into student pasta without further cooking?
And today? Well, we’re all obsessing over garnishing our plates with micro greens, making mackerel ceviche and sourcing locally produced raw-milk butter. And then there’s Cavolo Nero. All the kale, chard, greens-y sort of veg seem to be having a bit of a moment but Cavolo Nero seems to be the big one. And do you know, like pesto before it, it IS delicious. I like it boiled for a couple of minutes in salty water and splashed with a little peppery olive oil. Or finely chopped and sauteed with some chorizo. And, with a sprinkle of chili flakes, it makes a nice accompaniment to grilled meat.
So, no recipe needed here really – just a suggestion to try some cavolo nero finely shredded, lightly boiled in salty water and served with some unfashionable but frugal griddled neck of lamb and tin of chickpeas mashed with some good olive oil.
Followed by Angel Delight for pudding. As long as my mum isn’t coming for dinner, of course.

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