Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family (mustard family) which includes cauliflower, cabbage and turnip amongst its relatives. A naturally fat free food which is high in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, broccoli is a powerhouse of goodness. An excellent provider of Vitamins A and C and a source of calcium and iron; broccoli should be a staple constituent of our recommended vegetable five-a-day intake.

Facts however, aren’t always sufficient to convert the most ardent shirker of this green vegetable. Its reputation sank to an unintentional all time low with the humorous and now immortalised words of former US president, George Bush (Snr):

I am President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!

Often associated with a cabbage like aroma whilst frequently served limp and lifeless, perhaps it is of little surprise that broccoli is abhorred by so many. With thick edible stems and flowering heads, not a morsel of broccoli need be wasted. Try this dip made entirely from stems which were trimmed from the florets:

Broccoli Dip

  • about 160g of broccoli stalks
  • 2tbs low fat cremé fraiche
  • zest of half a lemon
  • sprig of tender, new growth thyme
  • pinch of cayenne powder (optional)

1. Cut the broccoli stalks into rough chunks and cook until tender, either by steaming or microwave on High along with a couple of tablespoons of water.

2. Using either a hand blender or liquidiser, blitz the broccoli for a few seconds. Add the crème fraiche, lemon zest, thyme and chilli, if using and blitz again until smooth.

Pile into a serving dish, chill then serve with an assortment of colourful vegetables and taco chips.

The key to preparing broccoli is to cook for the absolute minimum time; until the stalks are ‘just’ tender, when there is still a little resistance to the tip of a knife. I prefer to cook by steaming, so the broccoli doesn’t become water logged and timing is easy.

Variation is another important factor. Any vegetable becomes mundane if continually served in the same manner, especially if it is plated straight from the steamer. Inspired from a conversation with a friend who said her family simply adored a recipe by Ken Hom where a broccoli salad is served at room temperature:

Oriental Broccoli Salad

  • 300g broccoli florets (use the stalks for Broccoli Dip)
  • 2tbs sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ - 1 thinly sliced chilli, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 cm fresh ginger, grated
  • 4tbs soy sauce
  • 1tbs toasted sesame seeds

1. Rinse the florets then steam for about 8 minutes until they are just cooked, al denté. Immediately plunge the broccoli into iced water, drain and reserve. The iced water prevents the broccoli from any further cooking and preserves its vivid green colour.

2. Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan, gently sautéing the garlic and chilli (if using) for a couple of minutes. Add the ginger and soy sauce followed by the sesame seeds. Remove from the heat then toss over the broccoli.

Serve at room temperature, drizzling over any sauce from the bottom of the serving dish.

If you happen to have fresh bean sprouts, throw in a small handful along with the broccoli, adding a delicious crunch to the salad.

A weekday favourite in my home is Tuna and Broccoli Bake, which may be prepared in advance (adding the crushed crisps just before baking) and is an inexpensive, healthy one-dish meal for all the family:

Tuna and Broccoli Bake

  • 250g broccoli, broken into florets
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 x 200g can tuna, drained
  • 250ml béchamel sauce
  • 50g grated cheese or 25g grated cheese mixed with a crushed small bag of crisps
  • paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C

1. Wash the broccoli and either steam or microwave until al denté - cooked to firm. Place in the base of an ovenproof serving dish.

2. Arrange the tomato wedges over the broccoli, tucking into any gaps. In an even layer, empty the tuna over the vegetables.

3. Pour the béchamel sauce over the ingredients in the serving dish and allow it to trickle through.

4. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, finishing with a shake of paprika. Bake 15-20 minutes until piping hot. Tasty served with Fruity Almond and Tomato Chutney.