It’s early spring now, I think. The days are lengthening, the sun is warmer, the birds are singing and the purple sprouting broccoli is in the shops. It’s a pretty thing raw, all long stems, green leaves and florets tinged with purple. But for all it’s delicate appearance it packs the strongest flavour of all the broccolis. That makes it great to match with other punchy flavours.
Here I’ve teamed it with garlic, chilli and the dry crunch of walnuts. Served with crusty bread as a starter, it will certainly issue a wake-up call to the palate!
150g purple sprouting broccoli, larger lower leaves removed
For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
10g walnuts, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
Steam the broccoli for between 5 and 10 minutes. It’s ready when the thickest part of the stem can be easily pierced with the point of a knife.
In a small pan, warm the olive oil, garlic, chilli and walnuts. You’re not frying the ingredients, just heating them so their flavours come out. A bit of sizzle is OK, but don’t let anything brown.
When the broccoli is cooked, remove from the steamer and put on warmed plates.
Season the dressing with salt and pepper and stir in the lemon juice.
Spoon the dressing over the broccoli and serve.
Serves 2 as a starter
Yes, you read that right – the sauce is definitely the star with this recipe!
For what is a simple recipe, this has a bit of complicated origin for me. It all started with a review of Drakes Tabanco by Jay Rayner in The Observer. In it he wished that the restaurant had paired a dish of romesco sauce with something more thrilling than tenderstem broccoli. Well, I disagree. Romesco sauce packs a hefty punch and I think something green and irony is just what is needed to stand up to it. Tenderstem broccoli does just the thing. Broccoli of any type would do, but so would kale, savoy cabbage or spinach. Blanch the greens, stir through the romesco and you have a dish that should be thrilling enough for anyone. I’m sorry, Jay, but we’re not letting the meat-eaters keep this sauce to themselves.
And besides – look how pretty it looks! Prettier than any meat you could pair with this.
For the sauce:
2 red peppers, grilled and skinned
75g ground almonds
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp vinegar
80ml olive oil
squeeze lemon juice
Pack of tender-stem broccoli
Put the peppers under a hot grill until their skin is blackened on both sides.
Remove the skins and seeds.
Put the pepper flesh with the rest of the sauce ingredients into a food processor and whizz until you have a smooth paste.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the broccoli in plenty of salted water until just tender.
Drain the broccoli and serve with the sauce spooned over.
Serves 4 as a starter