Purple sprouting broccoli is readily available right now, so it’s a good time to get some in if you haven’t already. It’s one of the many great delights of spring: beautifully coloured heads on top of thin and tender stalks. This colourful veggie is one of the first signs that an abundance of great food is on the way. Though it is available all year round in supermarkets, its season runs from January to May, so now is the best time to enjoy it. I like to have mine as simple as possible, cooked so that the broccoli is tender but there is still plenty of bite. I prefer to serve it with subtle flavours so as not to mask its clean, nutty taste.
This dish is one that allows the broccoli to be the centre piece. There are no other vegetables served with it because, in my opinion, it doesn’t need any. The broccoli is steamed for just a couple of minutes prior to cooking (you can do this either in the microwave or in a steamer), so that it stays firm and retains its vibrant colour. It is far better to steam rather than boil purple sprouting broccoli. Boiling them directly in the water will cause them to not only discolour but also lose their nutrients. It’s also extremely easy to overcook them this way. I know some people prefer mushy veg, but the truth is that all the goodness and flavour disappears when you overcook them. With this dish you are also going to pan fry them a little with the pasta, so keeping them under done is essential.
I’ve used red lentil pasta for this, which you can find in any supermarket (I got mine in Morrison's). Not only is it gluten-free, but it’s also quite a firm pasta that’s high in protein. Even if, like me, you have no problem with gluten, it’s still worth trying this pasta just as a nutritious alternative to your usual brand.
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
- 250g (1 pack) dried red lentil pasta (gluten-free)
- 150g purple sprouting broccoli
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled (or 2-3 tsp garlic mince)
- ¼ tsp salt (if using fresh garlic)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Handful of vegan parmesan shavings (shaved with a veg peeler)
First cook your pasta. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and pour in the pasta. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until tender. You will need to skim the water a little when the pasta first boils to remove the foam. Drain when it is cooked and plunge straight into cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again when cooled.
While the pasta is cooking you can steam your broccoli. First cut the bottom of the stem off each head of broccoli, then you can steam one of two ways:
1. Put the broccoli into a microwavable container with about 1 centimetre of cold water at the bottom. Attach a loose-fitting lid, making sure you allow steam to escape, and microwave on full power for 3 minutes.
2. Or you can put an inch or two of water in a saucepan fitted with a steamer and lid. Bring the water to the boil, put the broccoli in the steamer and put on the lid. Steam for 3-4 minutes.
Once the broccoli is cooked plunge it straight in to cold water to stop it cooking any further. Drain when cooled.
If you are using fresh garlic, pound the cloves with the salt in a pestle and mortar until you have a paste.
Heat the oil gently in a wok, or large non-stick pan, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes on a low heat. You want the garlic to infuse with the oil, so don’t cook it too rapidly here. Add the mustard and the lemon juice and turn up the heat a little. Stir to incorporate, then put in the broccoli and pasta.
Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring often, until the pasta and broccoli have thoroughly heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then serve with thin shaving of the vegan parmesan cheese.