For most of my 40 years, I’ve labelled broccoli as The Devil’s Vegetable (along side celery, which still is). I’ve huffed and puffed indignantly about the increasing prevalence of this vegetable over the years – order a dish that comes with “green vegetables” and 99 times out of a 100 you’ll get a plate of green florets!
But a couple of years ago I experienced a broccoli epiphany.
You see, what I’ve always disliked about the most common broccoli, Calabrese, is the floret at the top – the bit that looks like the canopy of a tree. The stem, of which there is precious little, has always been the best bit.
Back in 2010, buying vegetable seeds for our back garden, we chose some that came with an offer for a free packet of purple sprouting broccoli. I wasn’t sure I’d like it but I could see from the picture on the packet that this variety produced long, slim stems with small florets at the end. Worth a shot, I reckoned. And lo, I found myself avidly eating the foodstuff I’d turned my nose up at for so long. Indeed, in the two years since I’ve keenly anticipated our harvest, lamenting when it’s late or not sufficiently high yield!
More recently, I came across another kind of broccoli that I’m loving – it’s a cross between Calabrese broccoli and Gai lan. (I’ve been ordering Gai lan for years in Chinese restaurants, but didn’t know until recently that it’s known as Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli and is also part of the Brassica oleracea species; I love Gai Lan for it’s long crunchy stems).
In the US, the cross is commonly known as baby broccoli though different producers have registered trademark names including Broccolini and Broccoletti.
Here in the UK, it’s marketed as Tenderstem.
To spread word about British grown Tenderstem and to show how versatile and quick it is to use, the Tenderstem press office have invited bloggers to suggest our own recipes for their “Tenderstem in 10” (minutes) challenge.
They sent me some to experiment with.
The first portion I fried in a heavy based pan over high heat, to recreate the charred broccoli we enjoyed recently at Paul Merrett’s pub The Victoria – part of a dish of rabbit loin and liver. 5-6 minutes of cooking allowed the stems to soften a little, but retain a decent crunch, and the florets to char enough to provide that smoky extra flavour. We served these over a steaming parmesan risotto. Delicious!
Inspired by the common pairing of Parma ham wrapped around asparagus, the second portion were wrapped in rashers of smoked streaky bacon and fried in the same way as the first. Even with wrapping time, they took less than 10 minutes!
We had these on their own for a light but tasty evening meal, but you could serve them with Hollandaise or with soft boiled eggs if you like!
Bacon Wrapped Tenderstem Broccoli (Tenderstem in 10)
Streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked, as you prefer)
Wrap each stem in a rasher of bacon, starting at the cut end and spiralling up to the end. Press the bacon firmly where you finish.
Place a heavy based pan on the heat, add a little oil and allow to heat up before adding the broccoli stems.
Make sure to place the broccoli stems into pan with the exposed end of the rasher at the bottom, so the bacon doesn’t unravel during cooking.
After a few minutes, turn the stems over to allow the bacon to brown on the other side.
Depending on the thickness of your bacon rashers and broccoli stems, the stems will take 5-10 minutes to cook.
Serve plain, with Hollandaise sauce or soft boiled eggs for dipping.
Kavey Eats received a complimentary parcel of Tenderstem broccoli.