Sunday 12 December 2010

Recipe: Broccoli, Roman style

Perfect with any simple grilled or roast meat, this dish has the sort of complex structure of flavours which makes it a first cousin to ratatouille...but with a list of ingredients which takes it straight back to the pages of Apicius, if not before.
Eminently suitable for entertaining, as all of the work can be done hours in advance, and the wonderful smell of cooking that greets your guests on arrival will have them salivating even before they hand over their coats! And, just as with ratatouille, any leftovers are excellent re-heated the next day, and served with a lightly-poached egg as an informal starter.

For four.

Ingredients: the stalks from two large heads of Broccoli - you need about 350g of stalk (reserve the florets for another day, to steam, or to use for purée, for example); 2 medium Onions; 60g stoned Black Olives; 4 large Anchovy fillets; 50g Parmesan; Salt; Olive Oil; 10 fl oz dry Red Wine.


1. Peel and thinly slice the Onions; peel the broccoli stalks, and slice wafer-thin.

2. Lightly oil the base of a heavy iron casserole, or a sauté pan with a lid. Distribute half of the sliced Onion over the base of the casserole, and cover with a layer of sliced Broccoli stalks, again using half of the total amount.

3. Thinly slice the Olives and Parmesan, and chop the Anchovies into small pieces. Over the layer of Broccoli stalks scatter half of the Olives, Parmesan and Anchovies; salt lightly (not too much, as the cheese and fish are already salty) and a light dressing of Oil (about half a tbsp).

4. Repeat with another layer of Onion, then Broccoli, and finally the remaining amount of Olives, cheese and Anchovies. Lightly salt, and moisten with a little more Oil.

Set aside until about an hour before you want people to come to table.

5. Pour the Wine over the assembled dish, and heat over a low heat for an hour, with the lid firmly in place. Check and adjust seasoning just before you serve.

I find it works well if I remove the pan from the heat just as the first course is served, and it can then rest, with the lid on, for the duration of the first course, ready to be served along with the main course.