Indigenous Ingredients | Kale

It’s green it’s mean and it packs a punch

A coarse large-leaf cabbage with a curly crinkled appearance, kale is the cultivated variety of the wild cabbage native to the Mediterranean, and rich in minerals and vitamins.

The ancient Romans introduced it to northern Europe and today it is still popular in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, where recipes gradually found their way to the Atlantic fringe – Ireland, Portugal and Scandinavia in particular.

Curly kale is the most cultivated variety along with local varieties adapted to their environment, such as Portuguese kale (couve) used to make caldo verde.

Being the good collectors that they are, the Flemish took kale to their culinary hearts.

Kale is an essential ingredient in stoemp, a mash made with potatoes, leaf and root vegetables.

Cooked with butter and cream it forms part of the Danish grønlangkål med skinke – kale with ham and caramelised potatoes.

The combination of kale, butter, buttermilk or cream, potatoes and spring onions / scallions or leeks is believed to be one of the oldest dishes in northern Europe.

Kale has made a comeback in recent years, because the colder climates improves its flavour.

mashed kale and potatoes

  • 500 g kale
  • 500 g potatoes, whole
  • 10 leeks / spring onions / scallions, chopped
  • 150 ml cream / milk
  • 100 g butter / buttermilk
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Soak the kale in cold then warm water to remove dirt amd chase away the small spiders that love to weave their webs among its leaves.

Leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Remove stems, cut into leaves into strips then small pieces.

Bring to the boil in a little water, reduce heat and cook until al dente. Drain surplus water.

Boil the potatoes in their skins.

Cook the spring onions in the milk/cream over a low heat.

In a heavy based saucepan mash potatoes with the milk/cream and spring onions over a low heat.

Combine kale, seasoning and the butter, blend with a wooden spoon until the mash assumes the colour of the greens. Buttermilk can replace the butter to give a tangy taste.

Grønlangkål med Skinke
kale with ham and caramelised potatoes

Kale cooked with butter and cream is well known in northern countries. In Denmark it forms one of the country‘s traditional dishes when it is combined with pork in some form or other and served with caramelised potatoes.

  • 1 kg kale
  • 75 g butter
  • 30 ml cream
  • 30 g white wheat flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt


  • 1 kg Lammefjord potatoes
  • 50 g butter
  • 40 g sugar

Boil the potatoes in their skins, peel and leave to cool.

Heat sugar in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the butter. When it foams add the potatoes and coat in the sugar-butter mixture. Keep the heat controlled until the potatoes are browned and heated through. Make sure they do not burn.

Prepare kale.

Make a roux in a heavy based saucepan, add kale and two tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium heat, adding a little more butter, finishing with sugar, salt and pepper.

Serve with cooked smoked ham, pork sausages or pork on the bone.

Boerenkoolstamppot met Rookworst
mashed kale and potatoes with smoked sausages

Another traditional kale dish, this mashed kale and potato stew is a Dutch classic with numerous subtle variations – kale, potatoes, milk and butter the only constants.

Smoked sausages (generally Gelderse) complete the dish but it is also garnished with bacon.

Vinegar is a tangy ingredient in some of the classic preparations, a role also played by mustard while the modern versions call for dried vegetables, herbs and spices.

Leeks have also been known to find their way into the ingredients list because they add a gentle flavour to the kale.

The Dutch ‘Food Web‘ list 162 recipes.

The Gelderland smoked sausage story is told by traditional food specialists Vers-inspiratie (Fresh Inspiration).

  • 1.5 kg floury potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 1 kg kale leaves
  • 550 g smoked sausages
  • 300 g onions
  • 100 ml milk, hot
  • 30 g butter
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, pinch
  • Mustard, for dressing

Boil onions and potatoes with a pinch of salt in sufficient water to cover in a large pot, strain, retaining the cooking liquid.

Put the kale in a large bowl with the liquid, cover and leave until leaves wilt.

Transfer kale and sufficient liquid to cover it to a saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes, drain, squeeze out liquid and chop small.

Put the sausages in the remaining liquid, cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Mash onions and potatoes with butter and milk, fold in the kale, season. Serve with pieces of sliced sausage dressed with mustard.

Other Traditional Kale Recipes

Caldo Verde PORTUGAL kale soup
Böreği / Börek TURKEY pies (kale is a filling)
Ekşili Pilav TURKEY bulgur with greens and yoghurt
Graupensuppe mit Kasseler GERMANY pearl barley soup with smoked pork neck
Hamsi Diblesi TURKEY Black Sea anchovies with kale and rice
Kiełbasa z Jarmuż POLAND smoked sausage with kale
Ostfriesische Grünkohl GERMANY kale with bacon, onions and sausages
Pierogi / Pīrāgi / Pirogi Пироги POLAND RUSSIA UKRAINE pies (minced beef, apple, kale and onion filling)
Solyanka Солянка RUSSIA winter soup pot
Sukuma Wiki EAST AFRICA braised greens
Vrzotovka SLOVENIA kale soup
Yaini CAUCASUS meat and vegetable soup