From wild cabbages, more than a dozen major crops of very different kinds have developed: some leaves, some flowers, some stems. Then there are dozens of relatives including radishes, rocket, horseradish and watercress. The original weedy natives of the Mediterranean and Central Asia had evolved thick succulent leaves and waxy stalks in that salty, sunny habitat, which make it hardy. Cabbage was domesticated around two and a half thousand years ago, and became an important Eastern European staple because of its tolerance of cold.
Purple sprouting broccoli is a member of the cabbage family cultivated for its tightly bunched clusters of small flower buds. Until comparatively recently this was the main variety of broccoli grown in England. It was introduced from Italy (broccoli means little shoots) in the late 17th century.
As for that lovely purple, antioxidant anthocyanins are responsible. Antioxidants fine tune our system for disposing of foreign chemicals, hence are thought to be anti-cancerous. The colour disappears on cooking because the pigments readily bleed into surrounding tissues, and are diluted into invisibility when cooked cells break open. Once picked, the sugars in broccoli start to convert to tough lignin fibres in the outer part of the stem, and can easily be removed with a peeler. Otherwise, eat your broccoli as soon as you can.
It is delicious and tender and needs very little cooking. The flavour is milder if boiled or steamed than if fried/roasted. Think sweet and mild with a delightfully yielding texture. It might be a cabbage cousin but it has none of the unpleasant bitter or flabby dishwater flavour of overcooked sprouts or cabbage.
All varieties of broccoli have a predilection for salty ingredients, hence popular pairings with blue or hard cheeses, salted anchovies and bacon. Chilli and garlic is another great accompaniment and crunchy peanut butter was made for broccoli:
Gado Gado salad: for odds and ends of vegetables
- Roast 200g skinned peanuts at 190’C 6-8 mins.
- Cool then grind ’til smooth.
- Add 50ml soy sauce, 2tbsp brown sugar, juice of half lime, chilli to taste and 2 crushed fried garlic cloves (fried with 2-3 chopped shallots or a small onion.
- Whiz ’til smooth. Add 400ml coconut milk. Whiz again.
- Use to dress a combination of raw and cooked vegetables eg cooked spuds, raw matchsticks of carrot, raw florets of cauliflower and steamed greens
- stir fry small shoots with finely chopped garlic and ginger, add oyster sauce, and serve with egg noodles
Purple Sprouting Brocolli On Toast
- lots of broccoli steamed and tossed in olive oil, salt, chili and lemon juice served on good toast, rubbed with a garlic clove and maybe a poached egg on top.
Purple Sprouting Brocolli pasta:
- as above but tossed around pasta (finely chop the garlic clove and mix well)- chopped anchovy and grated parmesan are great additions.
simply steamed and served with lemon and butter, balck pepper and salt or hollandaise sauce.
With thanks to Ruth at Hornbeam Cafe
sources: McGee-food and cooking segnit– the flavour thesaurus