All About Purple Sprouting Broccoli
“If I were a vegetable I’d be purple-sprouting broccoli – very erratic and you can’t get rid of it.”Keith Abel of Abel and Cole introducing himself on the Archie Manners’ Chatshow
Purple sprouting broccoli only has a short season – February to the beginning of May – so take advantage of it while it’s around. In comparison to its neat tight-curled cousin, the purple sprouting relation looks like a mad professor having a bad hair day and a gone-wrong blue rinse. What it lacks in tidiness however, it makes up for in terms of dramatic appearance (it can be very purple) and flavour. It has a stronger flavour than ordinary broccoli, sort of half way between asparagus and cauliflower. There is also a creamy-white variety of sprouting broccoli which is, from the gardener’s point of view, less hardy, and from the cook’s, less interesting to look at.
Classic way of cooking purple-sprouting
You can control the excesses of its wild appearance by trimming the leaves and stems (cut diagonally into ¼”/½ cm slices) and dividing the plant into individual florets.
Stir fry (in sesame oil, or walnut oil and a little smoked salt) or boil for four or five minutes, drain and mix in butter. Alternatively, microwave (in the plastic container it comes in) for three minutes, drain and stir fry.
However, there is also another, less orthodox method: the sandwich toaster. This is an idea of Jane Baxter, co-founder of Wild Artichokes. According to her all manner of vegetables can be effectively cooked in one of these. The sandwich toaster is especially good for purple sprouting apparently as it both chars and steams it, thus keeping much more of the flavour than if it were to have been boiled.
Interesting things to do with purple-sprouting
If you’re wanting to do something a little more interesting consider either:
- Boiling as above, then adding in a handful of raisins – continue boiling for a minute or so. Mix with dry-fried pine nuts.
- Toss in sesame oil and butter with garlic, orange zest, tamari sauce, sesame seeds and chopped Brazil nuts.
- An idea from Gizzy Erskine – serve with soft boiled eggs, caper berries, chick peas and a dressing of sherry vinegar and olive or walnut oil.
- An idea in Uyen Luu fantastic book My Vietnamese Kitchen – a Vietnamese dish called bánh canh xào chay – a stir-fry with noodles. Uyen Luu uses fresh udon noodles and mixes in white wine, soy sauce, mange tout, bok choy, crushed peanuts to combine together with the purple sprouting. Highly recommended.
- As pointed out by James Hearfield, chef at The Daylesford Cookery School, simply tossed in the frying pan with butter and, then, lemon juice, and finally drizzled with a good finishing oil, you have layers of all five flavour profiles: sweet in the vegetable itself; bitter in the burnt notes of the fried butter; and umami in the caramel formed with the butter; sour with the lemon juice, salt in the oil….a KISS approach – Keep It Simple, Stupid!
- Serve the cooked purple sprouting broccoli in a salad with boiled potatoes, some chopped pecans, and a dressing of parsley, mustard, crème fraiche and lemon juice.
Or remember –
“…purple-sprouting broccoli, the finest flavoured of all the cabbage family. It’s slightly citrus with slim fibrous stalks and unopened flower heads….. Good purple sprouting broccoli is as great a vegetable as asparagus and can be treated in similar ways”Rose Prince, The New English Kitchen
so you can also:
- Serve with hollandaise – either bought or one you have made yourself, with a little blood orange juice mixed in.