The beautiful lime green Romanesco broccoli has been slowly gaining popularity here in the UK, and in the last couple of years, larger domestic farm suppliers have switched some of their Calabrese broccoli ('normal' broccoli) crops over to this Jurassic vegetable, which is great news... less airmiles for this wonderful beast!
And who can blame us for loving this veggie? It's a bit of a curiosity - which we love. Yet it has a safe familiarity with it's obvious parentage of cauliflower and broccoli. Furthermore, it is BEAUTIFUL. Looking close up, you can see a visually pleasing mathematical psychedelic design. How can it possibly exist in nature? It is enough to hypnotise!
Aesthetics aside however, it is also a delight to munch on. Children can call it dinosaur broccoli, adults can enjoy the inoffensive creamy broccoli taste. And, like cauliflower and broccoli, the whole thing is edible. The leaves, the core, the florets. Delicious.
Here are our four ways of enjoying Romanesco broccoli!
If you haven't cooked a cauliflower or a Romanesco like this before, it can seem intimidating. Yet it is the simplest way to cook any large veggie head. Add some liquid, some flavour and a long slow cook. It feels special when you do it with a cauliflower, but it's extra exciting with a Romanesco!
The first step with all these methods is cleaning the vegetable, which can be a tricky thing especially if you don't want to break it up.
I do this by removing the leaves (for use in something else) and slice off the dry end of the stalk, so it stands on a steady base. Fill a large bowl or your sink with water and add a little white vinegar. Submerge, upside down, and move around until the bubbles stop appearing and then leave to soak for five minutes. This should disperse any nasties - with legs or otherwise from your lovely veggie. You can then rinse off and use.
For a whole roasted Romanesco, you can use whatever spices you fancy. from light Italian herbs to heavier za'tars or Moroccan flavours.
Cover the beast in flavour with some butter or olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Pop in a lidded pot with a large splash of water and, depending on size, it should take 1-1.5hours in a medium oven. To test whether it's ready, gently turn it upside and administer the fork test to the centre of the stalk to see if it's done.
And if you're feeling cheffy, you can uncover for the last ten minutes adding some seeds or parmesan or breadcrumbs over the top for extra texture.
This is a lovely novel way to cook a Romaneso, but it does depend on the size of your veggie and you will need a plan for the messy bits of florets that are lost in the slicing. Having said that it is a great way to show off the beauty of this veggie, and create something that feels a bit meaty. Not to mention, it's bang on trend.
For the best results, it's a two step cooking process.
After removing the leaves, slice off the bottom of the core, creating a steady flat cutting surface. Cut the vegetable into 1.5cm slices and you should get around 3-4 slices for a normal size Romanesco!
To create a good-looking dish, it's great to brown off the steaks first, with some butter and some flavours. Of course you want to allow the true flavour to shine through, but this is a great opportunity to experiment. Rub on a little Chinese or Indian spice mix, and plenty of pepper, with some butter and brown the steaks on both sides in a shallow pan. This bit is mainly for aesthetics, then place the steaks in a shallow dish in a pre-heated medium oven for around 20 minutes, adding a splash of water if it looks dry. Enjoy when they are fork-tender!
3. Steamed Florets
Classic and beautiful. Probably the way you're most likely to first try this vegetable, It feels safe, and we know how to do it. However, I would encourage against this! The diminishing size of the florets and the disparity between the core and the floret stalks makes it difficult to achieve an even texture after cooking.
If you do want a simple side dish, either try hard to cut pieces to similar sizes, or pop smaller ones in the steamer later on, or accept that some will be a little softer than others.
Not one for the perfectionists, however, it's a comfy and familiar way to create a side dish if you're not sure how everyone around the dinner table will feel about them.
And from here they can be added to other dishes to be warmed through, like a pasta dish, or a tortilla. Or they can be kept in the fridge or freezer until they're needed for an emergency shot of greens.
This is a particular favourite of mine. It's a controversial stance, but I can't really see the point in rice. There. I've said it. It doesn't taste of anything. It doesn't have much nutritional value. It seems a waste of taste bud action. And a waste of an opportunity for extra veggies.
So for me, it's either an entire bowl of curry, or I serve it with something with a little more bite. And if I'm on a health kick and a peshwari naan is off the menu, this is the answer for me.
If you have a food processor it's really easy - just pop a roughly chopped Romanesco in the food processor along with an onion and keep processing until it resembles erm... rice. Fry it with a few splashes of water, a little oil and salt, until you can see the onion go translucent and the Romanesco go soft, but not mushy. Like most vegetables, Romensco can be enjoyed raw, so the 'cooking' is really a matter of personal taste and heat, rather than a necessity.
I hope this gives you some inspiration to try something different with your Romanesco!