Brassicaceae such as broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli and romanesco, which are all nearing the end of their long winter season, contain a compound called sulforaphane that is believed to have myriad health benefits. According to NutritionFacts.org, “Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli can potentially prevent DNA damage and … activate defences against pathogens and pollutants.” To reap those nutritional benefits, however, it’s best to eat the whole plant, fresh or frozen, including its leaves and stalks. Peel and thinly slice the thickest stalks against the grain, then cook alongside the rest of the plant, or simply eat them as a crudite. Purple sprouting broccoli, in particular, can have especially woody stalks towards the end of the season. Trim the base with a peeler, finely chop the most fibrous ends, and slice the rest in half vertically from the floret down, so thinning the thick stem.
And if you ever have any leftover cooked broccoli, cook it up a second time to make this savoury dip that also doubles as a pasta sauce.
Twice-cooked broccoli with whipped feta
This makes use of an otherwise unattractive leftover by taking advantage of its soft texture and frying it up into something that’s rather tasty. With or without the whipped feta, twice-cooked broccoli is delicious on its own or tossed through pasta with a little of the cooking water. Once made, the dip will keep for another four or five days in the fridge. Like all oils, extra-virgin olive oil is good to cook with, so long as you don’t overheat it to smoking point (around 180-190C), so keep an eye on the pan and turn down the heat if it gets too hot.
180g leftover cooked broccoli (purple sprouting or other)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
¼ unwaxed lemon, flesh finely chopped (save the peel for another use)
100g feta, plus 2 tbsp of its brine
Roughly chop all the cooked broccoli, and finely chop any stalks and trimmings across the grain. Put a frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and two tablespoons of water and, once hot, add the broccoli and chopped lemon flesh. Cover and fry gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes; encourage the broccoli to break down by crushing it with the back of a wooden spoon as you go.
Meanwhile, blend the feta and two tablespoons of its brine to a thick, smooth puree. Spoon the twice-cooked broccoli on top of the whipped feta and serve with bread as part of a main meal, or toss it through cooked pasta.