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How to cook broccoli

How to cook broccoli

Broccoli may not have had the glamorous press of being a ‘superfood’ like blueberries, flaxseed or its cousin kale, but it’s proven to be well up there with the healthiest of vegetables. Along with other members of the brassica family (cauliflower, bok choi, Brussels sprouts) broccoli is absolutely packed with vitamins.

When buying broccoli, choose one with a firm stem and a dark green head – it starts to yellow when it’s getting a bit old, but will still be good for soup. There’s a variety of broccoli for every season, with regular broccoli coming into season in spring, Tenderstem arriving in summer and lasting through to November, then the cold-loving purple sprouting broccoli beginning late winter and lasting until May.

How to cook broccoli

A staple green on the British dinner table, this versatile vegetable is arguably at its bright green best after a few minutes steaming or boiling. Saying that, roasting brings out a nutty, umami flavour, or you can even eat it raw for full nutritional clout.

Broccoli is usually broken down into florets, which require less cooking time than the stalks. Be sure to use the whole vegetable – too often the stalks are unnecessarily thrown out, when they can be finely chopped and cooked in the same way as the florets. You can even save them for different recipes – they make a flavourful soup base, or are delicious pan-fried with onion and garlic then tossed through pasta.

Though it’s usually best to cook broccoli still with a little bite to it to retain its bright green colour and nutritional benefit, why not consider embracing the softer side of broccoli? Slow-roast it whole and serve as a vegetarian centrepiece, or confit in some oil with garlic for 2 hours before spreading over toast.

If you want to keep it simple, follow the steps below.

Ingredients

1
Trim the broccoli into florets (saving the stalks for soups or sauces or finely dicing it for a different texture) and bring a large pan of water to the boil
2
Add the broccoli and cook for a few minutes until the stem is tender and it’s still a nice bright green colour – broccoli becomes dull when overcooked
3
Drain well, allow to steam for a minute or so and dress in some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

What broccoli goes with

Like many iron-rich foods, broccoli goes really well with umami-rich ingredients like anchovies, Parmesan, Stilton and cured meats. Try Sally Abé’s classic broccoli and Stilton soup recipe for a comforting, tasty dish. Josh Eggleton uses the same flavour combination with his loin of venison with a broccoli and Stilton purée.

As broccoli originally hails from Italy, it also works well with bold, sprightly Italian flavours such as lemon, olive, chilli and pine nuts. Widely available in Italy is broccoli rabe, or rapini, which is far more leafy and slender than other varieties, but just as delicious. Try this linguine recipe with broccoli rabe and prawns for a simple yet elegant dish.

For a simple and healthy lunch dish, try Anna Hansen’s Tenderstem broccoli with black garlic, poppy seeds and almond dressing.

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