Cooking with broccoli
Hope you had a great week cooking and enjoyed Halloween. This week my star ingredient is broccoli as there is so many varieties of it around at the moment. Broccoli is part the cruciferous vegetable family. Other members are cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Bok Choy and Brussels sprouts. You are going to hear me on about this family a lot. The research is strongly pointing to this family for such an array of healthy promoting properties, especially associated with cancer, that I can’t stress enough how important they are. You should to aim for 3-5 servings of this a week – I try to consume every day.
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and the ultimate vegetable for healthy eating, and is closely related to cauliflower. Broccoli provides a range of tastes and textures, from soft and flowery (the floret) to fibrous and crunchy (the stem and stalk).
Try to choose broccoli with floret clusters that are compact and not bruised. They should be uniformly coloured, either dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety, and with no yellowing. In addition, they should not have any yellow flowers blossoming through, as this is a sign of over maturity. The stalk and stems should be firm with no slimy spots appearing either there or on the florets. If leaves are attached, they should be vibrant in colour and not wilted.
Broccoli is very perishable and should be stored in open plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week (Personally I find the purple sprouting lasts only a few days but the green broccoli tends to last a bit longer). Leftover cooked broccoli should be placed in tightly covered container and stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days.
When preparing broccoli, both cooked and raw make excellent additions to your meal plan. Some of the health-supporting compounds in broccoli can be increased by slicing or chewing. Interestingly, leaving the broccoli on the counter for 10 minutes before you cook it actually activates some of its health promoting properties – there you go!!!
When cooking the whole stems and the florets, try to throw in the stems a few minutes before the florets. I get around this by simply slicing the stems fairly small and throwing it all in together!! While people do not generally eat the leaves, they are perfectly edible and contain concentrated amounts of nutrients.
One of the best ways to cook broccoli is to steam for around 5 minutes. Although it can be roasted and blanched, steaming is best.
With regard to health, broccoli is a great vegetable to include in your weekly shop. Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains the phytonutrients sulforaphane and the indoles, which have significant anti-cancer effects, especially in terms of hormonal cancers. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamins K, C, A, B6 and E and minerals phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as folate and fibre. Broccoli also contains the carotenoid, lutein (a potent antioxidant linked to eye health). It is also a good source of tryptophan (which is an protein that is used in the body to help you feel good).
Broccoli is also great for liver detox as it induces liver detoxification enzymes. Sulforaphane boosts the body's detoxification enzymes thus helping to clear potentially carcinogenic (cancer causing) substances more quickly.
Another interesting factis that when broccoli is eaten with tomato, it has an even more powerful anti cancer effect. Chopping and heating make the cancer-fighting constituents of tomatoes and broccoli more bioavailable i.e. available to the body. However, over cooking broccoli will reduce its anti-cancer properties significantly so 5 minutes steaming only remember!!!
To get the most benefit from your cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, be sure to choose organically grown varieties (their phytonutrient levels are higher than conventionally grown). And the idea of ‘Good things coming in small packages’ is shown by the fact that broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times the power of mature broccoli to boost enzymes that detoxify potential carcinogens. So, pop into your supermarket or health food store and get some 'Good for You' brocco shoots for on top of your salad or soup.
In addition, broccoli has been linked to the treatment or prevention of infection with H. pylori, a primary cause of ulcers. Broccoli sprouts also appear to be able to repair damage done to sun-exposed skin. There is also a link between the consumption of broccoli and reduction in heart disease risk.
OK, I need to stop as I could go on!!
This week I am using a slightly different array of flavours and ingredients. Hopefully, you will be building up your cupboards with a range of ingredients so when you come home you are never stuck for what to cook. There is nothing worse than a cupboard that is bare when you need to cook a meal in a hurry. When you have a basic stock of herbs and spices, sauces and oils, it means that you can always create something tasty. The ones I'm suggesting are great additions to your kitchen cupboards.
Either of these dishes are great with stir fried marinated chicken or pork or perhaps some lentils cooked with a little onions, lemon and cracked pepper. These could be served on a bed of brown rice.
Chinese Green Salad
The vegetables are lightly cooked (the best method for healthy eating) and then covered in the dressing straight away to ensure that the flavours are absorbed. Mikawa Mirin is available from all good food stores and is great for stir fries – its a match made in heaven with soy sauce. A good brand of soy sauce is Tamari soy sauce which is suitable for coeliacs and Clearspring have a lovely Mirin.
|8 oz broccoli heads
8 oz mange tout
6 spring onions
2 oz almonds
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoons cider or Mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
|Cut the florets from the stalks. Remember that you can use the stalk as well - cut off the top half and cut into this obliques. Top and tail the mange tout and cut them obliquely into slices. Do the same with the spring onions.
Toast the almonds by putting them in a pan or grill and leave for around 5 mins (I burnt countless nuts so watch them!!)
To make dressing, put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix with a fork.
Fill a large saucepan with about 3 pints of water.
Bring to boil and put the broccoli in for only 1-2 mins, take out, drain well and place in a large bowl.
Next add the mange tout to boiling water and leave in for only 1 minute. Take out, drain well and place in large bowl with broccoli.
Add the spring onions with the broccoli and mangetout and mix the dressing in straight away. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on before serving.
Asian steamed Broccoli
I'm introducing another taste here. which is good for healthy eating vegetables. Firstly, Thai fish sauce is a great flavour to add to any stir fries, curries or Asian dishes. Unusual on its own (to say the least) but its great when it works with other flavours. It keeps in your cupboard for quite a while - the brand I would recommend is 'Squid Brand' fish sauce.
|12 oz purple sprouting broccoli
For the dressing:
1 level teaspoon of sesame seeds
1 dessertspoon of Thai fish sauce
1 dessertspoon of sesame oil
1 dessert spoon of lime juice
1 dessert spoon of soy sauce
1 small red chilli
|First prepare the broccoli by cutting it into even sized pieces - stalks and all.
Put the broccoli into the steamer and steam for 5 minutes. Remember that you can use anything as a steamer. You can use a traditional one that is attached to a saucepan, a Balinese bamboo one or if you don't have one, try putting a metal sieve over a saucepan of boiling water and cover with a lid!
To make the dressing, toast the sesame seed in a pan or under the grill and leave for a few minutes (watch them!).
Place all of the dressing ingredients into a bowl and mix. When broccoli is cooked, place in large serving bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss and serve straight away. Easy!