Our kitchen garden cook reveals her favourite recipes with broccoli.
It’s not known for certain when broccoli was first cultivated, but the ancient Romans ate—and Pliny the Elder wrote about—something that sounded very similar. As its name suggests, broccoli originated in Italy, in the 16th century, and was more commonly known as ‘Italian asparagus’.
In the 1720s, the British writer and garden designer Stephen Switzer was selling foreign vegetable seeds in London. He wrote of his disappointment at obtaining broccoli seeds from Naples only to discover they were mixed with turnip seeds, which suggests that the vegetable was fairly new to Britain at that time.
Moroccan-style lamb lollipops with a warm broccoli-and-couscous salad (serves 4)
12 lamb cutlets, well trimmed up the bone
50g harissa paste
140ml chicken stock
1 preserved lemon
A generous head of broccoli
1 red chilli
1 red onion
100g cherry tomatoes
1 lemon, juice and zest
A handful each of fresh mint, basil and parsley
Trim the lamb cutlets up the bone to create the ‘lollipops’, then place them in a bowl and spoon the harissa over them and season, before covering the bowl with clingfilm and leaving the lamb to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚C/gas mark 4. Pour the couscous into a heatproof bowl and add the chicken stock, stir with a fork, cover it with a plate and leave it to absorb the stock for about 10 minutes.
Cook the broccoli in a steamer until it retains a firm bite. Set it aside until cool enough to handle and then cut the broccoli into florets and place them in a large bowl, before drizzling a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice over them.
Dice the preserved lemon, red chilli, red onion and cherry tomatoes and add them to the broccoli, then grate the lemon zest over it and add the lemon juice. Finely chop the herbs and add them, too. Check the couscous, using a fork to fluff it up, add it to the broccoli and other ingredients and mix well.
Place the lamb lollipops onto a rack in the oven (or you could barbecue them) and cook for five minutes on each side. Serve with the couscous and extra harissa on the side.
More ways with broccoli
Mini broccoli and Stilton flatbreads
Mix together 240g self-raising flour, 150ml natural yoghurt and a tablespoon of water until you have a dough. Divide into small balls, flatten and cook in an oil-brushed griddle pan. Crumble the Stilton over them and add a floret of broccoli before cooking under the grill for a few minutes. Serve as a canapé.
Broccoli stems with lemon vinaigrette
Make a lemon vinaigrette by combining 50ml olive oil, the juice from one lemon, 2 teaspoons of natural yoghurt, a teaspoon of smooth Dijon mustard and some finely chopped herbs, such as parsley or basil.
Whisk them together, taste and then add seasoning. Blanch the broccoli florets in salted boiling water for no more than 2–3 minutes, so they still have a definite crunch. Arrange on a serving plate with the dip on the side and serve as a canapé.