Wednesday was the Spring Equinox, the first day of Spring, bringing with it the first “supermoon” of the new season. This means that the moon was at its closest point to Planet Earth in its monthly orbit, a mere 224,173 miles from us. So let’s greet the official arrival of Spring with a celebration of the wonderful fresh produce it brings, particularly purple sprouting broccoli, one of my favourite vegetables and especially prized because it is only available for a very short time. Apart from the fact that it is so pretty with its lovely purple heads, elegant dark green leaves and slender stems, it requires less cooking than its cousin calabrese and therefore retains more texture and nutrients.
My organic vegetable box contained a large bag of PSB on Friday, so we have been feasting on it and looking for new ways of partnering it because although it is undoubtedly at its best when simply steamed and drizzled with a really good, dark green extra virgin olive oil, it also shines when it is accompanied by Asian ingredients such as toasted sesame oil, chilli and cashews, or Mediterranean olives, sun-dried tomatoes and perhaps capers, as in the recipe below.
So it is a true gastronomic star, but it is a nutritional hero as well and an important member of the cruciferous family. PSB’s purple green package has been found to be a more powerful source of antioxidants than its far less exciting green cousin; for instance, it contains considerable amounts of Vitamins A, C and K1, carotenoids, calcium, folic acid, iron, fibre; sulforaphane which may protect against cancer; and glucosinolates for effective detoxification. And since the arrival of Spring is the perfect time for gently cleansing and detoxifying the body, PSB can really come into its own.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb and spice blend and is available at most large supermarkets or online from Steenbergs of Yorkshire.
Purple sprouting broccoli in a Mediterranean dressing
Serves 2 as a side dish
200 g purple sprouting broccoli
For the Mediterranean dressing:-
15 g capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 a large red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced – add a whole one if you want more of a kick
10 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 large sun-dried tomato halves in olive oil, drained and diced – scissors work well here
5 ml/1 tsp za’atar
10 g flat-leaf parsley, chopped medium fine
60 ml/4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – feel free to include a couple of tbsp from the sun-dried tomato jar
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Trim the broccoli and sliced lengthways through any stalks which are very thick. Steam it for five minutes and set aside to cool.
Make the dressing by mixing the first seven ingredients in a small bowl and add two tablespoons of olive oil.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, scrape in the dressing and stir-fry for a minute or two, to cook the garlic. Add the broccoli and, with a pair of kitchen tongs, gently turn it over and over in the dressing until it is well coated and hot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and give it one last turn.