Bold as brassica: Mark Hix reveals that purple sprouting broccoli and creamy cauliflower florets can make for perfect autumn comfort food

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

I've always been a big fan of sprouting broccoli and cauliflower, and it seems that farmers around the country are growing both for the best part of the year now. There was a time when the Cornish cauliflower season was during the winter, and the summer season was up north, but now we seem to find West Country caulis available almost all year round. Likewise, with sprouting broccoli: those lovely dark green spears just seem to go on and on, and I like to use them like asparagus, as they share many of the same qualities – they are perfect, for example, dipped into hollandaise sauce for a starter, or served with some mature cheese shaved on top.

I've never quite been into the "normal" variety of broccoli; it just seems rather dull and uninteresting compared to the leafy sprouting variety. One reason for its unexciting reputation, perhaps, is because British cooks haven't been terribly adventurous over the years when it comes to cooking the stuff – it tends to just get boiled and dished up with not much enthusiasm. As with most veg, however, the possibilities are endless if you use your imagination.

Fried duck egg with sprouting broccoli and capers

Serves 4

A simple dish such as this can be served as a colourful and fun brunch dish, snack or starter. I often serve sprue asparagus like this, as you can use the yolk of the egg rather like a sauce and the sharpness of the capers cuts the fattiness of the yolk.

200g or so of tender sprouting broccoli, trimmed of any woody stems
4 duck eggs
80-100g butter
2tbsp capers, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the sprouting broccoli in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes or until tender, then drain in a colander (if the stalks are thick just split the stems with a knife prior to cooking).

Cut the broccoli into smallish pieces and keep warm.

Fry the eggs gently in half of the butter, seasoning the white as they are cooking, then transfer on to warmed plates. Melt the rest of the butter in a pan, add the broccoli and capers and season. Spoon the broccoli, capers and butter around the eggs and serve immediately.

Cauliflower soup with bacon and cob nuts

Serves 4-6

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, white part only, roughly chopped
2-3 good knobs of butter
1 small- to medium-sized cauliflower, roughly chopped, with the dark outer leaves cut off
750ml vegetable stock (a good cube will do)
500ml milk
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2tbsp grated hard cheese such as cheddar
6 rashers of rindless streaky bacon, finely chopped
12-16 cob nuts, shelled and chopped

Melt the butter in a pan and with the lid on gently cook the onion and leek, without colouring, for 4-5 minutes, until they are soft.

Add the cauliflower, stock and milk. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes, with a lid on, or until the cauliflower is soft. Blend in a liquidiser with 3 tablespoons of the cheese until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve and season again if necessary. You can add a little more cheese for added savouriness if you wish.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based frying pan and cook the bacon on a medium heat for a minute or so, then add the cob nuts and cook for another couple of minutes until crisp. Transfer to some kitchen paper.

To serve, spoon the soup into warmed soup bowls and scatter the bacon and cobnuts on top.

Fritters of sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce

Serves 4

A nice way to snack on crisp, sprouting broccoli is to give it this tempura-like treatment. Serve it as a pre-dinner snack, a starter or as a side dish, but make sure you cut the broccoli and leaves down into bite-sized pieces before cooking.

200-250g tender sprouting broccoli, trimmed of any woody stems
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

For the batter

4-5tbsp self-raising flour
Enough cold lager to make a smooth batter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the anchovy sauce

12-14 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
4tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

Cook the sprouting broccoli in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes until tender. You may need to split any thick stems with a knife prior to cooking, and then drain in a colander. Put the self-raising flour in a bowl and gently whisk in enough beer to make a batter (don't worry if there are a few lumps in it), then season. Mix the anchovies, mayonnaise and garlic together and put to one side.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Cut the sprouting broccoli down into bite-sized pieces, then dip into the batter and deep fry them in a couple of batches, turning them in the fat with a slotted spoon as they are cooking, for 2-3 minutes, until they are lightly coloured and crisp; then remove from the fat and drain on some kitchen paper.

Season with sea salt and serve with the anchovy sauce on the plate or in a dipping pot.

Pan-fried cauliflower with sweetbreads and chanterelles

Serves 4

Pan-frying a thick slice of cauliflower may not seem the obvious thing to do with it, but it is quite delicious with all types of offal or game. You can serve this as a gutsy starter or main course.

1 medium-sized cauliflower
500g lamb's sweetbreads
Vegetable oil for frying
Butter for frying
120g chanterelles
2tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim any brown leaves from the cauliflower (leave the core) and cook whole, in boiling salted water, for 10-15 minutes, until just cooked. Remove from the water, plunge into cold water and leave to cool. Put the cauliflower on a chopping board and cut a couple of centimetres off each side. Then cut 4 x 2cm-thick slices, across the cauliflower.

Place the sweetbreads in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, then drain in a colander. Once cool enough to handle, remove any sinew and membrane.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. Lightly flour the cauliflower and cook on a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. In another non-stick or heavy frying pan, heat a couple of knobs of butter until foaming, season the sweetbreads and cook on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, turning them as they are cooking, until golden. Transfer to a dish and keep warm.

Add the rest of the butter to the sweetbread pan and toss the chanterelles and parsley in it for about 30 seconds and season.

To serve, put a slice of cauliflower on each plate and arrange the sweetbreads and chanterelles on top.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice