Tuesday, October 12, 2010
One of the staple dishes in rural Istria is kelj (kale, or savoy cabbage). This is a plant that grows well in the limestone soil of Western Croatia, Slovenia and Northeastern Italy, and provides a ready source of vitamins from autumn until the end of winter for local farming families.
The usual mode of preparation is to cut a head of kelj into several large pieces, then boil it together with a bit of salt-pork, or just in salt water. Then the kelj is chopped up in small pieces and mixed with mashed potatoes. Salt, pepper and olive oil are added as flavoring. The result is quite similar to the Irish dish colcannon:
Although kelj is a typical Istrian food plant, it doesn't invoke the same symbolism and high status as other local agricultural products, such as truffels, grapes, lavender or olives. No one sings songs about kelj in Istria, for example. It might be an interesting project to compare Istrian kelj traditions with the usage of Brassica oleracea species in other European areas. Any other cabbage-heads interested in discussing this?