Purple sprouting broccoli with poached egg, capers, parsley and lemon dressing

Diana Henry / 18 February 2016

This recipe for purple sprouting broccoli with a runny soft-boiled egg and a parsley and lemon dressing is a good, healthy lunch or light supper, and it’s also one of my favourite starters.

Cooking time

10 minutes

Serves

2



Ingredients

  • 150g (5oz) purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed
  • 2 large eggs

For the dressing

  • ¼ tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp capers, rinsed of salt or brine
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Method

It’s fresh and minerally, with a touch of saltiness. All the components – eggs, broccoli, capers, lemon and olive oil – go brilliantly together. If you don’t want the hassle of breaking soft boiled eggs over the broccoli you could just poach them.

Find out how to make the perfect poached egg.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together.

Snip any dry bases off the broccoli stems. Steam or boil them until just tender. (How long this takes depends on the thickness of the stalks – push the tip of a sharp knife into them to test for doneness).

At the same time add the eggs to a pan of boiling water and cook for 5½ minutes, then immediately plunge them in cold water. As soon as the broccoli is cooked put it into a dish and cover with most of the dressing.

Peel the eggs carefully and put one on top of each serving, gently breaking the egg so that the yolk starts to run out. Spoon over the rest of the dressing and serve immediately.

About purple sprouting broccoli

There’s a tendency to think of February and March as the brown months. The earth is either frozen or muddy. There appears to be little growth and we turn to stews for sustenance, grains and pulses for ballast. But five minutes spent in your local greengrocers will show you that this isn’t the whole story. There are squeaky green cabbages, lush clumps of watercress (I still prefer it in bunches than in bags – it seems to last longer), orbs of purple beets and stalks of rhubarb the colour of a Schiaparelli gown. Dull? Come on!

Of all the vegetables that are considered good for us, greens – particularly watercress and brassicas – top the scale. They’re nutritional powerhouses. As well as being packed with basic vitamins and minerals they’re also rich in phytochemicals. Broccoli is the brassica I serve most. I’m relieved I like it. My mum and I have been saying ‘We love broccoli’ and feeling glad about it for longer than I can remember. Its specific benefit is that it’s full of vitamin K, essential for promoting bone health and reducing the impact of osteoporosis. (But don’t binge on broccoli if you take Warfarin, which is prescribed to slow down vitamin K production. Talk to your GP if in doubt.)

But what we really love is not the regular green broccoli but the stuff that appears at this time of year, its stalks slim, its lovely heads touched with mauve: purple sprouting broccoli. I like it as much as I like asparagus and can, in fact, eat rather more of it in one sitting. Like asparagus it’s very easy to render special. It’s fine as a side dish of course, but it is really meant to be the star: it’s the vegetable that deserves sauces and relishes, melted butter, single-estate extra-virgin olive oil and even hollandaise.

Purple sprouting broccoli is sweeter and more refined in flavour than regular broccoli, and certainly more beautiful. Brown paper bags full of the stuff make their way into my kitchen when it’s in season and will often form the entire meal, no meat required. A few evenings ago I had a plateful topped with a poached egg and a creamy parsley sauce. It loves eggs and cream. But it’s also wonderful with strong flavours, such as chilli and capers. You can span the globe with it too.

Drizzle it with a dressing of tahini, lemon, olive oil and yogurt for a Middle-Eastern flavour, or go further east and stir-fry it with ginger, chilli and some oyster sauce. Italian approaches are my favourite, though. Toss it with a warm dressing of extra-virgin oil, garlic, chilli, plumped-up currants, capers, chopped anchovies and pine nuts – the flavours of Sicily. Or serve it simply, with olive oil, lemon juice, chunks of ricotta and shavings of pecorino. Few vegetables can take so many different ingredients. Or can be ready – and adorned – in such a short time. Make the most of it while it’s here.

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