I’ve been reflecting on the recent plight of dairy farmers in the UK regarding the price of milk – which has sunk to such a level as to be almost unsustainable.
Farmers in the UK have always been a source of great admiration for me. We rely on them as a vital resource to supply us with food through multiple levels of an increasingly complicated agricultural supply chain. Long hours and hard work often do not always equal a solid living on what they produce.
In the face of such low prices there is a doggedness that really stands out for me and we should be grateful to all UK farmers for their efforts in bringing food into our lives.
One of the reasons to be grateful right now is that April is the start of the season for one of my favourite vegetables: Broccoli.
Right now I just can’t get enough of this leafy green. I love all things broccoli. Just as our dairy farmers are the unsung heroes of our entire food system, broccoli is the unsung hero of my kitchen.
Unfortunately, just as one crop comes into season, another is going out (Purple sprouting broccoli).
See below for details on the UK growing season for the two main varieties:
- Broccoli Calabrese (April to October);
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli (February, March)
It’s rather more exotic than we give it credit for, coming originally from Italy, and it pairs up very nicely with loads of ingredients; like chili, garlic, goat’s cheese and will also go well alongside the more distinct Asian flavours like soy, sesame and ginger.
One of my favourite broccoli recipes involves roasting the florets in the oven, adding only olive oil and salt. Simply drizzle over the oil and salt and bake in the oven at 200C for about 35 minutes. This will produce the most outstanding end product with a much more concentrated flavour than you would get from steaming or boiling. You can also make a great broccoli soup using very few ingredients – onion, garlic and stock usually does the trick. If you want to steam the broccoli it will go well tossed in a little butter, lemon juice and a few capers. A nice blanket of cheese sauce with a topping of parmesan and bread crumbs goes down a treat too.
It just goes to show that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that win you over.
For the recipes below I’ve focused on the two main varieties of broccoli. Both recipes work well on their own or with a few slices of crusty bread alongside.
Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy, chilli and garlic and toasted cashews
This is a great recipe to have just on its own or as a side dish for roast lamb or another type of meat.
You could also serve it as a starter or toss it with linguine.
- 200g purple sprouting broccoli
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 red chillis, roughly chopped
- 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Half a lemon, juice only
- Boil the broccoli for 4-5 minutes until cooked but still with a nice bite to it.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan on a low-medium heat and add the cashew nuts. Stir them in the pan for 4-5 minutes until beginning to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the garlic cloves with the chilli and chopped anchovies. Turn up the heat and add a splash of water to help the anchovies break down into a loose ‘sauce’ consistency.
- Season, add the lemon juice and drizzle the sauce, with the toasted cashews, over the broccoli.
Roasted Broccoli florets
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets, stems peeled and sliced or diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a pinch of black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Toss the broccoli florets with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Spread them out and then roast for 20 minutes – until the edges are crispy and the stems are crisp tender.
- Serve warm.