The short season for purple sprouting broccoli begins in the depths of winter and continues through into spring. This highly attractive vegetable offers a wonderful alternative to the more commonly found blue-green calabrese variety of broccoli (and the less common bright green romanesco) that is found during the rest of the year. Purple sprouting broccoli has long, shooting stems with coarse green leaves and a purple tinge to its heads. With a more delicate flavour than the other broccoli, it makes a wonderful treat. Enjoy it lightly steamed until tender and served as an appetizer with hollandaise sauce or melted butter (rather like asparagus) or use it in tarts, gratins, soups, sauces and pasta dishes, as well as in stir-fries and salads. When buying, always choose firm stems with tightly packed heads and really fresh-looking
leaves. Avoid specimens that are wilting, soft or discoloured. Remove the leaves, trim the ends of the stalks and peel away any thick skin, then either steam or boil until it is just tender and still retains its bite and colour. If stir-frying, cut into bite-sized pieces. If a recipe requires only the florets, do not throw away the stems – when cooked, they are tender and juicy and have a marvellous flavour. Use them in another recipe such as a soup or stew.

Broccoli and spring onion salad

Ingredients: 2 bunches spring onions; 2 tbsp olive oil; 1.25kg/2lb 12oz purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed; shavings of Parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional). For the Dressing: 1⁄2 tsp grated orange rind; 1⁄2 red chilli, seeded and chopped; 2 tbsp orange juice; 1 tsp lemon juice; 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

First make the dressing.
Put all the ingredients in a jug, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and whisk together. Set aside.
Preheat the grill to hot.
Trim the root and tops of the spring onions and strip off the papery outer skin.
Arrange on a grill pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grill for 3–4 minutes on each side until tender.
Meanwhile, pour about 5cm/2in of water into a wide pan and bring to the boil. Add the broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and pat dry.
Divide the broccoli and grilled spring onions between four warm serving plates, drizzle over the dressing and scatter with
Parmesan shavings, if using.
Serve immediately.

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Susannah Blake

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