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The Colour Purple

I’ve been eating with the seasons ever since I became a chef 16 years ago, so I should know the drill by now. While some things are available all year round, there are some vegetables that come round and you just know it’s winter/early Spring: lean time.

Here are three ways to make this delicious cruciferous vegetable the centrepiece for a starter with a difference or a quick lunch or supper.


1. Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Hollandaise sauce & a poached egg
Hollandaise (and mayonnaise) come under the heading emulsions, where magic happens between egg yolks and oil in the case of mayonnaise or butter and a little heat for hollandaise. It is made with egg yolks, to which a reduction of vinegar flavoured with thyme, shallots and peppercorns is added, this mixture is cooked gently and emulsified with clarified butter. To clarify butter, heat it on the stove until it starts to froth and the solids rise to the top: skim off the froth and you will be left with clarified butter or ghee, this can also be used for fast cooking as it burns at a higher temperature than butter when the solids have been removed. When the solids are left to go brown, you will have ‘nut/brown butter’ or ‘beurre noisette’.

For the reduction:
100 ml white wine vinegar
Thyme
Black peppercorns
Shallot
2 egg yolks
250 g butter, clarified, at body temperature
Salt

Put the vinegar on with the other ingredients and reduce it to a dessertspoonful, do not be tempted to inhale as it will make your eyes smart! (This nasty trick was played on me by a particularly bitchy, highly ambitious chef back in my restaurant kitchen days...).   
If you have a heavy bottomed pan, you can make hollandaise directly over the heat, but until you get your confidence, it is probably best to use a bain marie, so put some water to boil in a pan and put the egg yolks and reduction in a bowl that fits comfortably over the pan of water. Turn the water off when it has boiled and don’t let the bottom of the bowl get too hot or it will scramble. If this happens, start with a clean bowl and a couple of spoonfuls of warm water, add the scrambled mixture slowly and it will come back. Whisk in the warm clarified butter drop by drop at first, as for mayonnaise. If it seems too thick, add a little water and carry on. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt.


Poaching eggs: Without going into too much detail, the most important factor is a good fresh egg which you just crack close to the rolling boil and you should have perfect results every time.

2. Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Anchovy, rosemary & lemon dressing
Make the dressing by finely mincing some garlic, mix with the zest and juice of half a lemon and a small amount of finely chopped rosemary – this is a powerful herb so go easy. Also finely chop 3 – 4 anchovy fillets and add them to the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and rosemary. Finish with a large slug of extra virgin olive oil.


3. Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Romesco sauce
Romesco is a nut and red pepper-based sauce that originates from Tarragona, Catalonia. The fishermen in this area made this sauce to be eaten with fish - aka a Romescada, which is utterly delicious. In cooking from this region, a picada, which is a mixture of fried bread and nut is used to thicken a stew. Here, the Romesco is eaten as an accompaniment. It also goes brilliantly with roast beets, green beans and leeks, or calçots, as eaten in the Spring in Catalonia. If you are gluten free, you can omit the bread.  You can find the recipe in my previous blog here.

How to cook Purple Sprouting Broccoli
When you prepare purple sprouting broccoli, remove the end of the stalks as they can be tough. Cook it in plenty of salted boiling water until the stalks are tender. It does loose some colour when cooked, but it's still magical. Steam if you prefer.