The Hungry Gap is that bit of the year when you’ve eaten the last cabbage but the radishes haven’t arrived yet. That sad day when you take the final winter squash from the shelf in the shed where they’ve nestled all winter or dig up your last lonely leek. It’s when you plant mangetout and tomato seeds in the warmth of the greenhouse and dream wistfully of those al fresco salad lunches which seem but a distant memory.
But no need to be melancholy. Because there are two things that will save you from a barren allotment, and possible starvation, during March and April – purple sprouting broccoli and ‘Russian Hungry Gap’ kale. And both are delicious.
Purple sprouting broccoli (PSB if you’re down with the allotment kids, and, let’s face it, I am) is something I’ve struggled with in years past, but plug plants have saved me and I’ve been using them successfully for a couple of years now (as recounted in last year’s A Miraculous Glut of PSB post).
Russian Hungry Gap kale is so called, it turns out, because it sits looking a bit puny and sorry for itself all winter then goes totally berserk in March and crops prolifically and almost unmanageably until, by my reckoning, late April. Clue’s in the name I suppose. I’ve grown this variety from seed and plug plants and both have done equally well. Both kale and PSB need netting if you grow organically, especially in the spring when hungry pigeons are liable to feast on your harvest, little sods.
So, still too nippy for a proper salad, but a warming, hearty salad made with the best of the Hungry Gap harvest should make us all feel like Spring might just, one day, turn into Summer…
Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovy and Spelt Salad
A warming Spring salad of kale, purple sprouting broccoli, spelt and anchovies.
- 150g spelt grain (I've used Sharpham Park)
- 150g Russian Hungry Gap kale (or any kale)
- Glug sunflower oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- Sprinkling garlic granules (yes, I know, very 70s)
- 175g purple sprouting broccoli
- 1 shallot (or 1/4 red onion)
- Splash sherry vinegar
- 10 tinned anchovy fillets
- Slug extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse the spelt then cover with cold water and boil for 20 minutes until just soft. Drain, rinse again then set aside until needed.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC.
- Remove the stalks from the kale and tear it into pieces roughly an inch square. Pop the leaves in a bowl with a slug of sunflower oil, salt and pepper, chilli flakes and a few garlic granules. Massage the oil and seasoning into each piece of kale making sure everything is nicely coated but not swimming in oil. Lay the kale out across two baking trays so the leaves are well spread out then bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning half way. Remove when crispy but not brown and set aside until needed.
- Get a griddle pan nice and hot, drizzle a little sunflower oil over the PSB spears then griddle them until just soft and nicely toasted. You will need to do this in 2-3 batches.
- Finely slice the shallot and put it in a large bowl together with a splash of sherry vinegar, 4 of the anchovy fillets which you have finely chopped and a slug of extra virgin olive oil. Muddle it all together and leave for a few minutes so the shallot can soften.
- To assemble the salad, toss the spelt in the shallot mixture then add the PSB and the remaining whole anchovy fillets. Adjust the seasoning, pile onto a plate adding a handful of crispy kale as you go.
(Incidentally, thank you to Sharpham Park who very kindly sent me a box of spelt-related goodies to play with. I played. I enjoyed. And this is one of the recipes I liked most.)