‘February’, it’s a pretty bleak month out there in the vegetable patch and particularly mine where the sole survivors of our rather random, extremely wet and at times, cold winter, is some dog-eared rainbow chard. Thankfully the local farm shop is my saviour, the outside shelves stacked high with purple sprouting brocolli, savoy cabbages and stunning forced pink rhubarb. The curious aspect about february is that you are just beginning to get a whiff of Spring in the air, blink and it’s gone, and that north wind is back bringing with it chilly tales from the Baltic. Take last weekend – utterly delicious – the sun shone, the birds sang and there was real warmth on your back. Hand in hand with such tepid promises of warmer days ahead comes purple sprouting brocolli, and unbelievably, 2 lambs. Hoorah hoorah, some light relief from the root vegetables that have taken pole position through the darker days of winter, and a vote from the sheep that Spring is marching forth.
Obviously I don’t grow it. Yes, I’ve tried, but defeated I remain. Unbelievably it needs 40 weeks in the ground – that’s the same as a baby(not the ground bit though)! What I absolutely know for sure about said brocolli, is that it benefits from the hardships of winter and hence this may explain why it is just so tender and sweet, justifying its’ other name, ‘poor mans asparagus’. We eat alot. Young and old alike, it really is gobbled up, and rightfully so. It is quite, quite delicious and cooked sensitively, as delicate and delectable as asparagus. My creed is to keep it simple, hence steaming is our cooking method of choice. Drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper it’s hard to go wrong, served with meat or fish, or incorporated in a salad, it is dead pretty and a welcome change from the standard brocoli that we consume by the ‘tree’ in our kitchen!
I was prompted to wax lyrical about this moreish vegetable thanks to an extremely good starter I ate last week. Naturally I have tried to reincarnate it and I have to admit it is remarkably good, and importantly, easy for the ‘time poor’. I think its success rather depends on 2 factors, you have to use duck eggs and the purple sprouting, needs to be as fresh as can be! But talk about simple, it literally is a soft-boiled duck egg, steamed purple sprouting brocolli, drizzled with olive oil, and a zesty salsa verde with some really good anchovies and capers crushed into it. Not exactly technical or complicated, but I promise you the simplicity is genius.
Salsa Verde for Duck Egg and Purple Sprouting Brocolli Salad
1 small garlic clove
2 salted anchovy fillets
1 tbsp of capers, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 bunch of basil
1. Using a pestle and mortar crush the garlic, followed by the anchovy fillets and capers.
2. Chop the basil and parsley roughly – this is a rustic salsa verde, so be careful not to bruise the leaves. Add the basil and parsley to the pestle and mortar followed by the olive oil (about 5 tablespoons) and stir well.