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Broccoli is great in cold and warm salads, charred on the barbecue, in a pesto and in fritters and vegetable slices. Broccoli florets are not good for preserving, as they end up smelling too sulphurous in the jar; however, never throw the stems away, as they make the most delicious quick pickles.
It’s best to wash broccoli just before eating, rather than washing and then storing it, as it doesn’t last as well. To store, wrap the unwashed head loosely in a damp cloth or beeswax wrap, leaving the stem free, and refrigerate. Do not store broccoli in a sealed container or plastic bag, as it needs to breathe.
To wash broccoli well, fill your sink with water and add 1 teaspoon salt or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), or 3 tablespoons vinegar. Soak for a few minutes, then rinse and prepare.
Broccoli goes well with its brassica pals Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and bok choy. Being part of the mustard family, it also pairs well with bitey flavours, such as Dijon or grain mustard, horseradish, garlic and ginger. Broccoli has a green, grassy flavour that lifts with a little lemon zest or juice, anchovies, preserved lemon or soy sauce, or mellows with creamy additions, such as butter, cream, nuts and cheeses. Broccoli also loves soft and woody herbs so be liberal with your garnishes.
Revive tired broccoli by cutting it into pieces with the stem attached and soaking in a bowl of ice-cold water in the fridge for 30 minutes. Drain, dry and use.
Broccoli stems are sweet and flavoursome. Add them to stir-fries, use them in pestos or thinly slice and quick-pickle them.
We serve this dish at home at least once a week when broccoli is cheap. It’s great as a side, tossed through pasta, on toast with ricotta or on top of a homemade pizza. Leftovers are good for 3 days; just give them a flash in a hot pan before serving.
Blanch 1 head broccoli, cut into florets with stems attached, in salted boiling water for 2 minutes or until bright green.
Drain and run under cold water, then set aside to dry.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the dry broccoli and saute for 5-8 minutes, until the edges become a little charred. Add a few tablespoons of chopped olives or capers, or 1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon rind. Anchovies work well, too.
Add 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves, some lemon zest and juice and a few pinches of salt and black pepper.
Saute until it smells delicious and the broccoli is a little soft. Turn off the heat, add chopped herbs of your choice and serve.
If serving over pasta, cook the broccoli for a little longer, covered over low heat, until starting to collapse.
Serves 4 as a side
TIRED BROCCOLI TOASTIES
These toasties were invented in our work kitchen.
We pulled some rather limp broccoli from the cool room and used up the last of the ricotta to make what’s become a favourite lunch for all the picklers.
Preheat the oven to 160degC.
Roughly chop 1 head of broccoli into florets, keeping the stems attached, and place in a bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and ½ teaspoon chilli flakes. Mix well, spread on to a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until soft.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Slather ricotta on slices of sourdough, pile on the broccoli, add a few tablespoons of sliced pickled onion and top with more sourdough. Brush the outsides of the bread with oil or butter and toast in a sandwich press or frying pan until golden.
WHOLE BROCCOLI PESTO
An almost genius way to serve broccoli without the broccoli haters even knowing. Serve it as you would any herb pesto. We use it as a pasta sauce or you could spoon it over baked potatoes, dollop on to your minestrone, spread on toast for breakfast with a fried egg, or use as a condiment with fritters, slices or in sandwiches.
Wash 250g of broccoli well and chop the florets and stems into pieces.
Blanch for 2 minutes in a saucepan of salted boiling water. Drain and run under cold water, then set aside.
Place ¼ cup (40g) almonds or cashews (roasted if you have them), 2 garlic cloves, ½ cup (10g) flat-leaf parsley (or basil in summer), ½ cup (50g) grated Parmesan, the zest and juice of ½ lemon, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper in a food processor. Add the broccoli and blitz to a chunky pesto. Drizzle in ½ cup (125ml) olive oil and blitz again.
Stir the pesto through hot pasta with lots of olive oil and more Parmesan. Any left-over pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Makes about 2 cups