Providing light relief from a long season of hardy winter roots, purple sprouting offers a hint of freshness and an assuring sign that warmer climes are just around the corner. As a fairly newly cultivated variety of broccoli, purple sprouting possesses tall, tender, leafy stems and purple-green florets. High in vitamin C and fibre and with a pungent bittersweet flavour, this scraggy looking Calabrese can be enjoyed boiled, steamed, roasted or simply raw.
Seasonal period: February to April
Flavour friends: With a particular fondness for salty ingredients, purple sprouting pairs perfectly with bacon, blue cheese, parmesan and anchovies. A richer, sweeter flavour is often achieved through roasting and is additionally enhanced with the vivid flavours of chilli and garlic. Alternatively, iron-rich red meat and game complements its bittersweet tendencies.
Buying, storing and preparing: Choose stems that are firm and crisp, and ensure the florets are vivid purple. Store in the vegetable draw in the fridge and consume a couple of days after purchase. Before cooking, wash thoroughly and trim any woody ends. Purple sprouting can also be frozen – simply spread out on a lined baking tray and place in freezer. Always cook from frozen.
Cooking: Purple sprouting can be boiled, steamed, sautéed or roasted. Boiling and steaming is the quickest and easiest cooking method, whereas sautéing and roasting is great for intensifying flavour.
Boil: 3 – 4 minutes. Steam: 4 – 5 minutes. Sauté: 5 minutes. Roast: 10 – 15 minutes (200°C/Gas Mark 6).
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovy and Parmesan Pizza
Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Chorizo and Potatoes
Saffron and Quail Egg Risotto with Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Roasted Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Wild Garlic Butter
Words by Helen Upshall