This is such a versatile dish, and one that really makes the most of the intense, slightly bitter flavour of cavolo nero. It is quite unusual to see these earthy ingredients combined with exotic spices, but it really does work. I like this as a main course, but you can also use it as a side dish to accompany lamb, chicken, sausages or even a substantial fish such as sea bass. I use puy lentils for their nutty flavour and excellent firm texture – the little gleaming dark greeny-grey pebbles look so beautiful with the black leaves of the kale. Make this with vegetable stock if you prefer, for a completely vegetarian dish.


  • 400g Dried puy lentils
  • 1 large leek trimmed and diced
  • 1 large celery stalk finely chopped
  • 2tbsp Coconut oil
  • 200g Cavolo nero large stems removed and leaves sliced
  • 2 Garlic cloves chopped, grated or crushed
  • 1tsp Ground turmeric
  • 1tsp Cardamom pods remove seeds and crush lightly
  • 1tbsp Wholegrain mustard
  • 1l Chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp Salt
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley or coriander finely chopped, plus a few whole leaves to garnish
  • Yoghurt to serve


  • STEP 1

    Heat the oil in a pan over low heat, add the leek, celery, garlic, turmeric and cardamom and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the lentils, stock and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

  • STEP 2

    Uncover the pan and stir through the cavolo nero. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring gently now and then, so as not to break up the lentils.

  • STEP 3

    Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and stir through the mustard and parsley or coriander.

  • STEP 4

    Serve warm, with a good dollop of yogurt and garnish with some extra herbs.

This recipe is taken from Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots by Aaron Bertelsen (Phaidon, £24.95).


Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.