After a long, cold and often wet winter it was such a pick-me-up to see the small purple heads of purple sprouting broccoli peeping their way through the leaves and protective netting down on the allotment. In a year that began with a drought and ended in being one of the wettest on record I had given up all hope: Leeks the size of small spring onions, tough and woody beetroot that grew in the shape of carrots and a crop of beans that never made it past being a dinner for slugs, anything edible has been a bonus. I am however a little perplexed by this vegetable. Broccoli as we all know has been branded as a superfood (I apologise for the link to the Daily Mail!). One of those foods we can eat in unlimited quantities. My father in law did this with his crop a couple of years ago and suffered from a thickening of the blood caused by a build up of iron. You really can overdose on purple sprouting, but you do have to eat it every day for about a fortnight in order to see any symptoms. Everything in moderation as they say.
Purple sprouting can be somewhat bitter at times. Here the bitterness is balanced by the creamyness of the sauce along with the hint of spice from the chili.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
A few heads of purple sprouting broccoli inlcuding leaves – stalks removed and cut into large chunks
1 red chili – deseeded if you don’t like it too hot – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of dried basil and dried oregano
200ml single cream or 200g mascarpone
Enough pasta for 4 people. I used penne but I think orechiette or conchigle perhaps work best
125g Mozarella (optional)
Place a large pan of water on the hob and bring to the boil. As this is coming up to temperature, heat the oil in a large frying pan (one that has a lid) then add the chili, garlic, dried herbs and purple sprouting. Fry gently for a couple of minutes then add about half a cup of water and put the lid on. Allow the broccoli to steam until the leaves are witled and the stalks tender. Now remove the lid, add the cream or mascarpone and stir until the mascarpone has melted.
When the water boils add the pasta and, if you are going to serve this straight away cook as per the instructions on the pack. If you want to top it with cheese and bake it then reduce the cooking time by 2-3 minutes else the pasta will overcook when it goes in the oven.
Now back to the broccoli. If the sauce is a little thick, add a ladle or two of the cooking water from the pasta. This is full of starch and not only helps to bind the creamy sauce together but adds its own creamyness too.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain then add to the sauce. Stir and serve or if you prefer, place this in an oven dish, top with torn chunks of mozarella and bake at 200C for around 10 minutes until the cheese melts and starts to colour.