Broccoli, oh how I love thee.
Is there a better vegetable? I don’t think so. I have been sitting here, pondering this very question for a good ten minutes. The humble pea came close, yet it is too small, bordering on insignificant, to hold the title of the best vegetable. I’m sorry, Mr Pea, but it’s true. Zucchini was once held dear to my heart, yet in all honesty, without being dolled up in a chilli lipstick or olive oil dress(ing) it is quite the plain Jane.
Oh dear…this has turned into a veritable vegetable vanquishing. That was not my intention. My desire was to honour my love for the delightful broccoli plant.
I use broccoli often. It is a true chameleon, and feels at home in a great variety of cooking styles. Not only does it feel at home, it shines. It is the equivalent of the prodigal child, whose trophies overcrowd the mantle and A+ papers plaster the fridge. Broccoli is incredibly nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin C, as well as good amounts of other nutrients such as fibre, vitamin A, iron and folate.
When used in Asian dishes, such as a stirfry or a curry, the eager florets soak up the delicious sauce in the same way a parched plant embraces an unexpected shower. Each bite of broccoli involves a delightful crunch followed closely by a saucy burst of luscious liquid. Perfection. For a more Mediterranean feel, sauté some florets with it’s good friends garlic and chilli, and you will find that three is certainly not a crowd. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and you are living La Dolce Vita!
Broccoli has many siblings. Some I am more fond of than others (there are always black sheep in the family). I don’t tend to pay cauliflower much attention, as it often bores me. Whilst cabbage features in two much loved dishes in my household, I find it is a bit inconsistent, relying on other flavours or a cooking method to make it sing.
I thoroughly enjoy the company of Chinese broccoli. I have realised I lied when I previously stated that all I know how to say in Cantonese is “one wonton noodle soup, please”. I can also order “gai lan” – naturally, the only words I can speak relate to food. Steamed or stirfied gai lan, topped with oyster sauce, is one of my favourite things to eat in Hong Kong. It is consistently good.
I adore broccolini as much as regular broccoli! Whether sautéed, steamed or stirfried, the stalk stays crisp and meaty, and the florets delightfully delicate. Broccolini is a hydrid of broccoli and gai lan. Let’s not dwell on the fact that in the context of broccoli siblings, this relationship would be illegal.
Kale is like the cool sibling who has left for college and comes home every now and then, suddenly vegan and preaching new ideologies. It is a very ‘hip’ vegetable (don’t laugh, vegetables can be cool), and is a prominent feature in green smoothies. However it is not as familiar to me as broccoli, visiting my kitchen only occasionally.
So, whilst most of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae siblings have their own talents and merits, none can compete with my beloved Broccoli. Yes, I play favourites. Although I must admit, if Kale visits from college more often I may too become a Nietzsche reading vegan.
Ben shares my love of broccoli, and his favourite way to enjoy it is by tucking into a nourishing bowl of broccoli soup. I made this at his request, and it was much loved.
It is a very simple recipe with only a few ingredients. It is essentially pure broccoli. Therefore be sure to buy good quality, fresh broccoli. It will really make a difference to the flavour of the soup. I don’t think I whizzed mine for long enough, and hence the texture was a bit grainy.
I used Gordon Ramsay’s Broccoli Soup recipe: link .
The glossy sheen and vibrant colour of the soup was spectacular, and served alongside fresh olive bread and quality goats cheese… we were in heaven. Another A+ paper to plaster on the fridge.