I hated broccoli when I was a child. My mum would cook it just long enough for its vivid green colour to seep into the cooking water and for the broccoli to loose its shape and collapse in a soft puddle on my plate. Broccoli was always served on the side, on its own. No seasoning, not even salt & pepper. And why does cooked broccoli go cold faster than any other vegetable? Time moved on, the home microwave was invented (how old am I) and the new way to serve broccoli was to give it a quick zap. The resulting broccoli remained bright green, was much crunchier, but still had no seasoning. Last year, when I was looking for new and interesting ways to serve the extremely abundant and never-ending broccoli harvest, I threw some in the oven. What a revelation. Roasted broccoli with garlic and anchovies is now the go-to side dish in our house.
Mr Grumpy refers to broccoli as “The King of Vegetables”. When I first met him it was not unusual for him to eat a whole head as a snack. Thankfully I seem to have cured him of this slightly weird obsession, and these days the only snack vegetable in our house is kale. OK so that is still weird, but less so than requesting me to pick up broccoli on a junk food run (in the days when I ate junk food).
Broccoli goes well with strong flavours and seems to have a natural affinity with garlic and anchovies. This combination is regularly eaten in our house, either as this side dish or with pasta and lots of Parmesan. I know that anchovies are a dividing ingredient. You either love them or hate them. Unless you like really fishy flavours, biting into an anchovy can be a bit much. If you treat anchovies as a seasoning rather than a main ingredient, however, they can really shine. Anchovies melt with a little heat, mellowing the fishiness and adding a savoury, salty flavour to the dish. I have fed anchovy laced dishes to avowed anchovy-haters and they have been none the wiser. Until I told them. Because I’m like that.
I pair this side dish with pretty much anything. A typical quick weeknight meal would be either fast roast chicken or pan-fried fish with potato boulangere and this broccoli on the side. It just takes that standard meal up a notch without any real additional effort of your part. The problem of rapidly cooling broccoli persists though, even if I have found a better way to cook it. My solution to that particular problem: Warm the plates.
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic & Anchovies
If you really don't think you can go with the anchovies, leave them out. The broccoli will still taste great roasted with garlic. Just add an additional clove of garlic and make sure you season well with salt.
If my broccoli head comes with the leaves attached I keep these on and roast them as well. They go crispy in the heat and are great to eat.
- 1 head broccoli washed and dried
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 2-3 anchovy fillets finely chopped
- Tablespoons Olive oil at least 2-3
- Salt & Pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan forced).
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Put the garlic and anchovies into a small bowl and add enough olive oil to create a slurry. I typically use around 3 Tablespoons, but actually just free pour until it looks right.
- Stir in some salt & pepper and set aside.
- Slice the broccoli into 4-5 mm slices. I use all of the broccoli, including the stem and leaves, so make long cuts down the length of the head to try and get each part of the vegetable in each slice.
- Put the sliced broccoli into a large bowl and pour over the reserved garlic/anchovy mixture.
- Toss the broccoli until it is well covered in the flavoured oil.
- Spread the broccoli over the lined tray, trying to separate the pieces so they do not overlap. Don't crowd them as they will not roast evenly.
- Roast for 10 minutes, until the broccoli has started to brown.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Watch this carefully towards the end of the cooking time. It can go from appetizing to burnt very quickly. If you want your broccoli a bit darker, just cook it for a few more minutes.
I have discovered the best way to warm the plates is to slip them into the oven for the last moment or two of the cooking time, or turn the oven off when the broccoli is cooked and slip in the plates whilst you are getting the rest of the meal together.