If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably bought purple sprouting broccoli because you were attracted to the contrasting colours.
No doubt then, disappointment took over when those purple heads swiftly turned dark green during cooking, making it look pretty much the same as ordinary broccoli.
So one rainy afternoon I decided to don my ‘Heston Blumenthal’ science coat to see what could be done about keeping those purple florets nice and purple.
I had a notion vinegar held the answer.
If you’ve splashed vinegar over red cabbage during cooking, you’ll know it does amazing things to the colour. For the uninitiated, red cabbage changes from washed out mauve to psychedelic purple.
Heavens! It makes you wonder what vinegar could do to hair!!!
Anyway, back to the broccoli. The first thing you need to know is those delicate florets – purple or otherwise are very easy to overcook. This is because the stems are far denser and need longer cooking time. So what to do?
One way round it is to chop off the florets and tip them into the pan right at the last moment, so both stem and floret are cooked to perfection. But the problem with this is, the end result doesn’t look so appealing.
The best way to cook tender stem broccoli is to do it standing up. The broccoli that is, not you!
So what you do, is bunch the stems together, tie with string or an elastic band just underneath the florets and immerse them in a deep narrow pan full of boiling salted water.
The water wants to almost touch the florets, but without actually doing so. Then cover with a tight fitting lid and boil very briefly – two minutes is all it takes.
The next step is to get a bowl of very cold water ready so you can plunge the broccoli into it to stop further cooking.
Next up, pour a splash of vinegar into a small pan and place over a high heat. Then grab the broccoli, shake off the water and dip the florets into the hot vinegar, rolling them around until coated and – hey presto – they revert back to purple!
However, the florets will taste vinegary. So what you do next is return them to the bowl of cold water and make a quick sugar syrup.
Throw out any remaining vinegar in the pan and replace with equal quantities of sugar and water – a tablespoon of each should do it and dissolve over a high heat.
Repeat the process of dipping and coating, then dunk the florets back in the water for one last time. Shake well, then stick in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve. When it comes to serving, either reheat in the microwave or toss in a little hot water and butter over a high heat. Voila! Job done.
Yes it’s a bit of a performance and no, it’s not something you want to do on a regular basis. But if you’re entertaining in style and want to show off your culinary expertise, this is the time to do it.