YES, this column is about kale – but please don’t turn the page! I know this curly green veg is the butt of jokes thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with it, but it is highly nutritious and pretty delicious when cooked the right way. As a bonus, Bournemouth has its own kale grower, so you can buy local.

Jim Hooper’s family has run 35-acre Berry Hill farm near Throop since the end of the Second World War, when it was one of dozens of smallholdings supplying fruit and vegetables to the grocer shops that flourished in Moordown and Winton.

Now, Berry Hill is the only commercial vegetable producer left in Bournemouth, and instead of delivering by horse and cart like his grandfather did, Jim sells kale and other vegetables at farmer’s markets and via a new box delivery service.

Jim told me many customers don’t know what to do with kale, and I agree it’s tricky.

It can be like chewing the end of a broom because it’s very fibrous, but there are simple ways to avoid this. Always cut out and discard the thick central stalk, then slice the leaves finely.

Give them a good scrunch with your hands to break down the cellulose structure – the leaves will change colour and soften. If you like, toss with a little olive oil and set aside for an hour to tenderise further.

If you prepare kale this way it’s fantastic used raw in a salad. Pop a handful into a salad bowl with some tender baby leaves, dried fruit or fresh berries (a good idea to counter kale’s bitterness), some goat’s cheese and cooked grains, and toss with a dressing to which you’ve added a good dollop of Dijon mustard.

If cooked kale is more appealing, there are plenty of options. Prepare as above, then steam it for a couple of minutes, toss in butter and add lots of salt and pepper.

I also adore it fried and stuffed into a bacon and egg roll, with a splodge of chilli sauce. But my kids love the recipe below best of all, and as they’re normal children and not hugely fond of eating their greens, that says it all.

For more information about Berry Hill farm and its delivery service, call 07971 795740, email berryhillfarm@ or visit

Good for you mac and cheese

Serves 4–6

350g macaroni or penne

Olive oil for tossing

75g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

60g plain flour

1 litre milk, warmed, plus extra if needed

150g mixture of Gruyere and Cheddar cheese, grated

50g Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of nutmeg

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Sea salt flakes

Freshly-ground black pepper

150g kale, finely sliced

For the topping

100g good quality bread, torn

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons blanched skinless Hazelnuts or walnuts

25g Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the macaroni or penne in salted boiling water according to the packet instructions, then drain, toss with olive oil and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and lightly butter a baking dish.

Place the topping ingredients in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pan until foaming then add the flour. Stir constantly over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Gently cook for five minutes, stirring often, until starting to thicken. Add the cheese and stir until melted.

Add the spices, mustard and salt and pepper and then stir in the kale bit by bit. This might seem like too much kale but it quickly wilts as you stir it in and takes up much less space than you think it will. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the topping on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.

Sue Quinn’s latest book, The Kids Only Cook Book, is out now (Quadrille, £12.99).

Follow her on twitter @penandspoon