Do you need another way to get more greens in your diet? Do you need a kitchen stalwart that is going to be as hardworking and flexible as you are? (Congratulations on that, by the way). Do you need a way to use up the head of broccoli you bought on Sundaybecause you thought you should? If so, I think I can help. This slumpy, lazy braised broccoli with chickpeas and garlic will quite possibly reboot the way you look at brassicas (or at least, how you cook them this week). If you’re keen for the recipe, stat, skip straight to the photo at the bottom. If you have time for some prattle, read on.
Why are we talking about broccoli so much? Why are we doing anything beyond quickly blanching or steaming it and serving it with some cursory chopped almonds, olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl in the centre of the shared family table as a token nod to being a responsible human who gives a fig about their health? For one, because this week in #poppyseedtopumpkin our stowaway is now the size of one. And for two, broccoli is an unsung hero. It’s an unsung hero when your iron levels are a little low (growing a human will do that to you). It’s an unsung hero when your budget is taking a beating – thanks obstetrician bills/ obscene accidental parking fines/ (you know when you’re really tightening your financial belt when you can’t quite swallow the cost of tenderstem/broccolini this week).
Let’s talk about how we cook vegetables. Long slow cooking of vegetables in a pan can be a mark of hopelessness. It can be a sign of slovenly, careless cooking. I’m talking about school camp fodder, where vegetables have given up all hope of form or structure and splay across a plate like an abandoned ice cream cone, only to be prodded occasionally with a curious spoon. And it can also be a calculated choice. Slow braising broccoli in olive oil is one of the most treasured recipes from Alice Water’s ‘The Art of Simple Food’. It’s Italian in origin, leaning heavily on the aromatics of garlic, chilli, olive oil and lemon juice to add depth and shine. The genius bit is how thrifty it is. All of the broccoli is used, even the stem (which has a wonderful flavour of its own). By slowly cooking the broccoli it relaxes into itself, becoming silky and plush. It’s a wonderful topping for bruschetta, pizzas with burrata, or as a base for grilled fish or chicken.
And yet, I think we can take this good idea and run a little further with it. For one, if we add some anchovies into the olive oil, they will dissolve, adding another layer of umami richness. For two, how about we round out the mix with some kale (that way we can get a double gold star for grown up-responsible vegetable consumption). And for three, if we add some chickpeas to the pan, will they drink up some of those flavours, as well as ameliorate any need for a white carbohydrate as a base? Why yes, I think they might.
This makes a lovely comforting bowl of food on its own. If you gild it further with parmesan and dried chilli, it really sparkles. And if you’re trying to get a little bit more sustainable oily fish into your diet, it’s also a very sneaky way to fold the flavours of sardines into your diet, in a less abrasive fashion. They just meld right on in there.
Try it on its own as a warm salad, add a little stock and stretch it into a rustic soup or mash it a little into a rustic paste and use it to top some crusty bread. You could top it with a poached egg, follow my lead on the sardine fillets, get friendly with some tuna in oil, or use it as a side dish to roast chicken, swordfish, steak or lamb.
Essentially, this is the broccoli dish you never knew you needed, but hopefully will be grateful you found.
Here are a few other things that are going on….
Reading: Confession – I needed some LITE reading the past week. I’m talking about a complete palate cleanser from the US election coverage which is making me fidget with dread and has reduced all of my fingernails to stubs. Hence I downloaded onto the ibooks on my phone ‘The Royal We‘ by the authors of ‘Go Fug Yourself’ (which remains one of my favourite celebrity fashion/puff distraction sites). It’s the plot equivalent of a Mandy Moore film and the Kate and Wills’ story, with the occasional barbed social comment thrown in. It’s like eating strawberry ice cream while dangling your feet in a blow up paddling pool on a hot day – and perfect to have sitting on your phone to dip into for those times when an obstetrician is running 40 minutes late, everyone else is at work and nobody on Instagram is doing anything particularly interesting.
Meatballs The Ultimate Guide by Matteo Bruno, from The Meatball and Wine Bar in Melbourne. This is a gorgeous book from a cheerful place on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. I don’t just love it for the decorative scribe on the wall and on the inner cover which says ‘I am sorry for what I said when I was hungry’ – which I feel I should probably get printed on small cards which both Will and I can hand out to people in our social circle (the small one inherited his mother’s propensity to hanger). Meatballs are a big hit in this house. For one, they’re a great way to put mince to use (see above about need for thrift). For two, they’re excellent bowl food. For three, they’re easy to take in any flavour direction. And just in case I was flagging for inspiration, this lovely book (a great birthday present from one of my best friends) has some great ideas to experiment with from ‘Breakfast Meatballs’ to ‘Roast Pumpkin, Currant and Pine Nut Meatballs’ (i.e. coming to a table near you soon).
Ogling: This slow cooker that you can control with your WEMO app. Our house is a little bit of a WEMO shrine. We’ve got the phone-controlled power points hooked up to the essentials- porch lights/ Christmas lights (in the festive season) – and most importantly – the coffee machine – so The Hungry One can have it warmed up and ready to go by tapping it on from his phone just as he leaves the beach. This idea of having it attached to a slow cooker is pretty genius. Now I just wish I could do it with the oven. See here.
Eating: We had a glorious birthday lunch for me on Saturday at Cupitt’s Winery on the South Coast of NSW, about an hour south of my mother’s house in Berry. There’s a gorgeous sloped lawn for kids to gambol on, vineyards to get romantically misty about, a Provencal style rose ‘Rosie’s Rose’ that is crisp, clean and way too easy to sip and a menu chock with the sorts of things you want to eat while you’re whiling away an afternoon. My pick was the pressed goat and potato boulangere with goat yoghurt and pickled onions that was my entree. A cross between a terrine and a meaty potato-bake, the portion size was just perfect too. See http://cupitt.com.au/
Listening: ‘Slate’s Mom and Dad Are Fighting’. This is one of the podcasts which is on my regular rotation while I’m doing domestic drudgery/driving. It’s a US parenting podcast which often has me nodding in assent, rather than feeling vexed and guilty about all the things I should/shouldn’t be doing. Essentially it’s smart people, with kids who are willing to admit all the things they get wrong as well as do the occasional humble brag about the things they get right. The latest episode ‘Mom’s with Her’ episode which covered the updated American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for screen time for kids made me feel a little less wretched about my son’s ability to recite episodes of Peppa Pig word for word. Also the chat with mums of girls about how they feel about the potential of a Hilary presidency made me all sorts of hormonal and hopeful. Listen here.
One of my very creative friends came up with a great alternative to a first birthday cake for her little one on the weekend. It was garden themed and perfect for a little lad named Eden (who we adore), who loves nothing more than rumbling around outside. A garden bed was created with layers of delicious Gelato Messina, topped with chocolate soil (made from crumbled Oreo cookies). Instead of slices of cake we had scoops of gelato in cones while sitting outside with the dappled sun on our backs. It was canny, clever and delicious. I’m thinking the same principle could easily be applied to building sites with diggers, or zoo enclosures…
Lazy Broccoli with Chickpeas and Garlic
1 head broccoli (approx 475 g)
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
5 anchovies in oil
1/2 cup/ 125 ml olive oil
1 1/2 cups/ 375 ml water
5 sticks of Tuscan kale, finely diced
1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
40 g parmesan, grated
dried chilli flakes to taste
Here’s how we roll
1) Finely dice the onion, garlic and anchovies
2) Add them with the olive oil to the bottom of a heavy bottom casserole dish/ Dutch oven. Sautee over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the onion has begun to soften. Be careful not to have the heat too high to scorch the garlic.
3) Dice the broccoli into florets and the stem into 1 cm pieces.
4) Add the broccoli to the oil and garlic and stir to coat the broccoli in the oil.
5) Add the water to the pan. You want the water to come half way up the broccoli, so it is bobbing around.
6) Return the pan to the hob and bring to a simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes.
7) After 30 minutes remove the lid and stir the broccoli. The broccoli should soften under the point of a knife.
8) Add the drained chickpeas, kale and zest of half the lemon to the pot. Stir to combine. Simmer with the lid half off for another 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle and some of the liquid to reduce.
9) Add the grated parmesan, lemon juice, dried chilli and salt to taste.
10) Stir to combine. Serve hot or warm. This will keep well in the fridge for a few days and also freezes well.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)