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Sunday 12:30-13:00
Rpt: Monday 16:00-16:30
From amaranth to zabaglione, Sheila Dillon and Derek Cooper investigate every aspect of the food we eat.
Listen to the Food Programme for16 January 2005
Sheila Dillon
Simon Parkes
Andrew Jefford
Derek Cooper
Sheila Dillon, Andrew Jefford and Simon Parkes, Derek Cooper
16 January 2005
Sheila and Tom

Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Cabbages, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Chinese Greens, the list goes on.

The brassica family is full of vegetables that have had a mixed press over the years, but as Sheila Dillon will show in this weeks' Food Programme, they are all very tasty and incredibly good for us.

Consumption of brassicas, apart from broccoli, has dropped dramatically in the last ten years as we turn to other vegetables. But of all the vegetables we eat, members of the brassica family are among the few plants native to the British Isles with at least one variety always in season.

During the winter months they are a particularly welcome taste of green.

Sheila goes to Borough Market in London to find an assortment of brassicas and to meet food writer and cook Tom Norrington-Davies.

They come across a colourful range of Kales, Cabbages and broccolis and bump into chef Gennaro Contaldo who enthuses about Kale. Sheila and Tom then buy some to cook in the studio.

The modern forms of brassica that we eat owe much to plant breeding. Sheila talks with Dr David Pink of Warwick HRI in Wellesbourne, the leading horticultural research institute in the UK.

He explains the history of these plants that have been eaten by the ancient Egyptians, bred by the Romans and were a staple of the Britsh diet for centuries.

He recalls how breeding started and what improvements have been made to sprouts, cabbages and broccoli.

The health properties of brassicas is backed up with a growing amount of scientific data.

Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich encourages us all to eat at least two portions a week, as these vegetables are known to have high vitamin content and anti-cancer properties.

One region where the cabbage remains king is Alsace in France. Choucroute, or fermented cabbage, is still very popular and every year a festival is held to honour the arrival of the Choucroute Nouvelle.

Ray Kershaw
experiences the glory of cabbage on a visit to the festivities.

Choucroute is the same as Sauerkraut and there are many cuisines that prize brassicas and countries where the cabbage is their best source of vitamin C.

Tom Norrington-Davies comes into the studio to cook the Kale he bought at the market. He discusses the different ways to cook brassicas, without any trace of that sulphourous smell that brings back the nightmare of boiled cabbage and school dinners. 

Further Information
Tom Norrington-Davies

Borough Market
Gennaro Contaldo

Dr David Pink

Professor Richard Mithen

Kale and Potato Cakes.

This will make about 6 to 8 depending on the size as you shape them. 

2 peeled medium, floury potatoes approx 400g total
1 kilo kale
200g dry cured bacon or pancetta, in fine lardons
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 free range egg
quarter tsp nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Boil the potatoes until they are very tender. Cook them whole if you have time (as they absorb less moisture that way). Allow them to cool thoroughly and then mash them, dry.

Strip the kale leaves from the stem. Blanch the leaves in plenty of water at a rolling boil. Give it 3 to 5 minutes so that it is very tender. Now chop it as finely as possible.

Fry the bacon until it is crispy. Now combine the bacon, onions, potatoes, kale, egg and seasonings. Heat a frying pan, with goose fat or any oil you like.

When it is good and hot, add a good dollop of the mixture and fry over a medium heat until browned and crispy on either side (should take about five minutes). Serve immediately.

A poached or fried egg is a good accompaniment, but so is game, or even white fish like cod, pollock or skate.
Copyright Tom Norrington-Davies

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