Saturday, April 16, 2016


Maybe you’ve heard that kale’s popularity has peaked. Not so in Spain, where this “foreign” vegetable is only just being discovered. It’s now being grown extensively in Murcia (eastern Spain), a region famous for its market gardens. Most of it goes for export, but, finally, kale has begun showing up in local markets here. TV programs feature this nutritionally-packed vegetable.

Bountiful kale harvest.

I’ve been growing kale in my huerta, vegetable garden, in order to assure enough of the leafy green for winter soups. Planted in the late fall, it provides handfuls of greens all winter long. Now, I’ve got to pull it all up to make way for the tomato plants.

I strip the leaves off, discarding the stems, and blanch the leaves in boiling salted water. Drained well, they are packed in plastic bags and tucked in the freezer.

Because kale is such a novelty in Spain, there really aren’t any traditional recipes for its preparation. Inspired by the similarity in nomenclature—kale and cole, the Spanish word for cabbage (kale is a member of the cabbage family)—I’ve adapted a very traditional Andalusian recipe, using kale in place of cabbage.

Beans cook with kale and other vegetables.

Potaje falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. It is usually served as one dish, unlike cocido, which may be separated into a first course of soup followed by a platter of meats and vegetables as second course

Potaje usually contains legumes and vegetables. Many are loaded with pringá, meat, bones, fat and sausage. Ham bone or añejo, salt-cured meat, contribute a lot of flavor. After cooking, cut the meat, fat and sausages into chunks for serving. Each person adds them to bowls of beans or mashes them up on top of a slab of bread.

The pringá--salt pork, fatty meat, sausages. Cut into chunks to serve with the beans.

In my village, the typical potaje de coles, cabbage pottage, is made with both chickpeas and cannellini beans. Or chickpeas and black-eyed peas. In other towns, only chickpeas are used.

This potaje makes generous servings of beans, vegetables and meats.

Cut the sausages and meat into chunks and serve with the beans.

Pottage with Kale and Beans
Potaje de Coles (o Kales)

Serves 4 to 6.

Top left, pellejo, salted pork skin.
12 cups water
6 ounces pork shoulder
6 ounces spare ribs
Beef marrow bone (optional)
3 ounces salt pork or pancetta
Ham bone, añejo or pellejo
1 pound cannellini beans, soaked overnight
1-2 carrots, peeled
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups chopped kale (or cabbage)
4 ounces morcilla (blood sausage)
2 chorizo sausages
Use kale instead of cabbage.
8 ounces pumpkin or butternut squash cut in chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika)
¼ teaspoon smoked pimentón
¼ teaspoon hot pimentón (optional)
½ teaspoon cumin
Sprigs of fresh mint

Place the water in a large pot. Add the pork shoulder, ribs, marrow bone, salt pork and ham bone. Bring to a boil. Skim off the scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat so the water bubbles gently. Partially cover the pot and cook 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.

Skim the froth that rises to the top.
Drain the soaked beans and add them to the pot with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring again to a boil and skim. Cover partially and cook 30 minutes.

Taste the liquid and add more salt if needed. Add the carrots, potatoes and kale to the pot. Simmer 15 minutes. Add the morcilla, chorizo and pumpkin. Cover and cook until beans are completely tender, about 15 minutes more.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and sauté the onions on a low heat until softened, 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 3 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the three kinds of pimentón and the cumin. Add this sofrito to the pot of beans and kale. Cook 5 minutes more.

Let the stew settle for 10 minutes. Remove the pork, ribs, salt pork, ham bone and sausages from the pot. Cut them into pieces, discarding the ham bone or añejo. Place the meat and sausages in a shallow bowl for serving. Ladle the beans and vegetables into bowls. Add sprigs of mint immediately before serving.

Waiting in the wings--tomato seedling will replace the kale in the garden.


  1. This is really healthy recipe :). Love the color of the combination

    1. Cheryl: Sure is healthy with all those colorful veggies. Could definitely omit the meat and sausage for a vegetarian version.

  2. Hi,
    I really love the look of your Fabada dish with the sausages and pork, it looks absolutely amazing! My girlfriend is from Jerez, and whilst it is a northern Spanish dish she introduced it to me and I instantly loved it, great comfort food.
    I am really enjoying reading through your blog, you are quite inspirational as I am just starting out with my own, so I thank you.
    I will carry on reading, all the best.

    1. Ben: Pleased to be inspirational! Good luck with your blog. Love your colorful dishes.