I feel sorry for all those poor children whose loved ones are to be seen with arms tensely folded over a heaving chest, watching said child trying to swallow the dreaded green because, "it's good for you".
Please Mums, Dads, minders all, do yourselves and the little darlings a big favour and put a little dab of butter on it or a lick of olive oil and the path of the green goodness will be much quieter, smoother and even enjoyable.
The broccoli that I like to cook is not the large and uniform looking heads that are for the most part commercially grown and available year round in the shops. They look bland and they taste bland. I prefer the varieties that do better during the cold growing season, and in autumn, winter and spring I am happy to cook any of the sprouting green, white or purple varieties.
These varieties require just a little more time in the preparation but have a much better flavour than the forced and rather crude large broccolis, though a cleanly produced head of calabrese can be very good indeed. Another member of this varied and complicated vegetable family to watch out for is romanesco, which in appearance, looks like a cauliflower that has become fused with a fantastic sea shell.
Its pale green florets have a pointy tip and overall it looks like the work of a sculptor rather than a gardener, but then we always knew that nature was the real genius. It has a really good flavour and will be perfect in this recipe.
- 600g sprouting broccoli
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of grated parmesan
- Zest and juice of half a lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whichever broccoli you choose to use in this recipe, make sure it is as fresh as possible. The general appearance and feel of the vegetable will tell you most about its freshness, so the colour should be good and vibrant, the stalks firm and no sign of yellowing regardless of the variety you are choosing.
When choosing these types of vegetables, turn them upside down and look at where the stalk has been cut from the plant. The fresher looking the cut, the more recently harvested the vegetable will be and the better it will be to eat. It is worth re stating that fresh vegetables are easier to cook than stale ones and also cook in a shorter time.
The amount of olive oil used here is scant and should be a lovely quality. The amount of parmesan in the recipe is also scant and ideally should be just freshly grated. Pre-grated parmesan can have a revolting flavour and spoil anything it comes in contact with.
The broccolis will vary in appearance and shape depending on what time of the growing season it is when you are cooking them. So each time you prepare them there may be slight changes to be made. In any event the object of the exercise is to remove any really tough stalks or skin on the stalks, and to cut the heads or florets into evenly sized pieces that will cook quickly and evenly with the trimmed stalks.
If necessary, separate the florets from the stalks in even sized pieces. If there are any particularly tough looking ends on the broccoli stalks, carefully trim them off. Peel the remaining stalks with a sharp vegetable peeler to just remove the tough skin.
Bring 1.2 litres of water to a boil and add salt, a generous teaspoon or so. Taste the water, it should taste really quite salty.
Add the peeled stalks and cook for 1 minute before adding in the florets. Continue to cook uncovered and at a rolling boil.
Using a skewer of small knife, check one piece of the broccoli after about 4 minutes to see if it is cooked. When it is tender, carefully strain off all of the water using a sieve or a colander.
Allow the broccoli to sit in the strainer for 1 minute to be sure all of the water had drained off. Replace it in the still warm but now empty saucepan and drizzle on the olive oil.
Sprinkle on the parmesan, lemon zest and juice, a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. With light hand shake and rotate the pan to mix the oil, cheese and lemon through the broccoli.
Taste a little and correct seasoning and serve immediately on a hot serving dish