When James and I had only just started seeing each other, he came round to my flat for dinner for the first time. I was still in that phase at the beginning of a relationship when you want to impress the other person and are trying to make them think you are amazing and wonderful, and so I asked him what his favourite food in the entire world was and told him I’d make it for us to eat. I was thinking maybe steak with some triple cooked chips and peppercorn sauce, or perhaps chocolate souffles, or fresh scallops, or raspberry sorbet, or roast lamb…
He told me his favourite food in the entire world was broccoli.
He could have asked for literally anything, and he chose broccoli. I realised this dinner was going to be less complicated and less expensive than I had imagined.
Since James and I have been together, I have eaten a lot more broccoli than I used to. Unlike James, though, I get bored with eating the same thing over and over, and so I started looking for another way to serve broccoli that wasn’t ‘steamed and plain’.
Putting this post up and calling it a recipe feels like a bit of a cheat, because the ‘recipe’ so pathetically easy. However, it is also, slightly dispiritingly, one of the most consistently praised things I cook for people, probably because it’s surprising. It’s a simple side-dish, but it makes broccoli so insanely delicious that it’s quite magical. It made a friend of mine who hates broccoli like broccoli. It made another friend of mine, who loves broccoli but was deeply suspicious of the concept of roasting it, message me to say ‘roast broccoli where have you been all my life’. It’s so good that I will fairly often just cook up a whole head of broccoli like this and call it lunch.
I mean, you know, I don’t want to big it up too much because I don’t want you all to think it’s the path to world peace or something and then be disappointed. But it’s pretty great.
As I say, this is more of a method than a recipe, so I’m not putting down proper measurements. Use your common sense. I trust you.
See those dark bits on the broccoli? The broccoli is not burnt. Those are the best bits. They are crispy and caramelised and delicious.
1 head of broccoli (not tenderstem)
sea salt flakes
black or red pepper
olive oil (or rapeseed, or whatever you fancy)
chilli flakes, if you like
- Preheat your oven to properly hot – 220C/ 200 fan/ gas 7. While it’s heating up, cut your broccoli into florets and pop it into a roasting tray. Season generously with sea salt and pepper, give the tray a shake, then glug some oil over the top and shake it again, making sure the broccoli is well covered.
- When the oven is hot, put the broccoli in for 10 minutes. Bring it out, toss everything round in the tray a bit, and put it back in for 5 minutes more. When you bring it out, it should all be just tender with patches that are starting to catch and caramelise and crisp up. If you’re not there yet, put it back in.
- When you’re happy, dust the whole thing with a handful of grated parmesan and serve hot.
See? Barely a recipe at all.