Broccoli

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I’m writing this post whilst sitting in a jury room at the start of two weeks jury service. We are also trying to move house and waiting to hear if our offer made last week has been accepted. Two forms of torture I could do without – boredom and pending excitement at the same time.

Broccoli is one of the wonderful brassica family of vegetables, which includes cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, turnips to name but a few. It is high in dietary fibre and a number of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and K.

There is evidence to suggest that eating raw broccoli can affect thyroid function due to dietary sulfhydryl and thiocyanate compounds which are found in all brassica vegetables. Oxalic acid is also present in raw brassicas so eating in large quantities can have an adverse affect on your health. So always cook your brassicas!

Select the best heads of broccoli you can find. Generally, I always go organic, but look for firm stalks; tight, green, undamaged heads; and if you can find them, unwrapped – the plastic is used to keep it from deterioration so unwrapped in good condition means it is very fresh. Avoid any broccoli with signs of yellowing. Give your broccoli a good wash in cold water – there should be mud and dirt on it, and maybe a few insects.

Trim all the florets off the stalk (the stalk can be eaten as well but needs a bit more cooking) – you want them to look like mini trees. You will find that they are all different sizes, but in order to get them to cook at the same pace you should cut the bigger trees down to the size of the medium sized trees.

The easiest way to cook broccoli is in water, salted and boiling. The salt helps to season the veg, the boiling keeps the cook time to a minimum – this helps to keep the veg bright and green and more importantly flavour is kept in the veg not the water. You can cook most green veg this way.

So, get a big pan of boiling water, salt, lid and something to drain and rest the veg in – I use a sieve over a bowl. Have some salt and extra virgin olive oil (EVO) to hand.

Little trees after salt and oil.

Drop the little trees into the boiling water, whack the heat up to full and put the lid on – this will help bring the water back to the boil faster. I’m not sure where it came from, but there is a kitchen legend which says never put a lid on a pot of veg as the veg will lose it’s colour – everyone tells you this all the time in a kitchen. Turns out there is no basis for this (thank you Heston Blumenthal for doing the science!) so use the lid to get the water back up to the boil as soon as possible.

The broccoli is cooked when there is a little give in the stalk when pressed with a thumb nail. Quickly, whip out all the little trees and place them in the sieve. Sprinkle with a little salt and drizzle with the EVO. As the broccoli cools it will soak up all the flavour from the salt and oil.

Once cool, use as you like – eat cold or reheat (like with this salmon dish).

Couple of pointers:

  1. Timing – I usually give my broccoli 2.5 minutes cooking time.
  2. What about refreshing? Personally I don’t refresh veg at home – I don’t tend to have enough ice for this and my G&T – so I let the veg cool naturally. This means cooking it for slightly less time as it will continue to cook when draining. It will not lose its colour or flavour.
  3. Salt – I use salt to season here twice. The salted water helps but most of the salt stays in the water. The sprinkling of salt at the end is the main seasoning. If you are watching your salt intake don’t add any at the end.
  4. Broccoli is best friends with chilli, garlic and almonds.

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