As the temperature has broken double figures for at least two days now, we can assume Spring is round the corner, if not quite sprung. With that in mind, I offer you this lovely recipe, which offers flavours of the months to come and revives our palates from all the rich winter dishes we have been comforting our chilly selves with.
Purple-sprouting broccoli with Orecchiette
This is a great Spring dish, which uses some of the first vegetables of the season. Purple-sprouting broccoli is thinner and more delicate than normal broccoli and has a great flavour and a real freshness, as well as being packed with goodness. This dish is great as a starter or as a quick mid-week supper. Leave out the pancetta for a vegetarian option.
500g purple-sprouting broccoli (or any other sprouting, but not normal broccoli)
2-3 anchovy fillets
3-4 slices of pancetta or thinly sliced streaky bacon (optional), roughly sliced
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic thinly sliced
A handful of cherry tomatoes cut in halves or quarters
1tsp Capers roughly chopped
In a large pot, set your water to boil for the pasta, the water you boil pasta in should be plentiful and as salty as the Mediterranean; this allows the pasta to move freely and stops it from sticking. Cook until al-dente, so there is still some texture when you bite it, make sure not to over-cook your pasta, otherwise it will be sloppy, fall apart and you will be sneered at by all Italians.
Whilst the pasta is cooking set a large frying pan on a medium heat. Put in a good glug of olive oil, add the onions and sweat for a few minutes. Add the anchovy fillets, pancetta and garlic and turn the heat down.
Once the pancetta has started to crisp, add the capers and broccoli (which should be chopped slightly, so they can be easily forked in to the mouth). Stir everything and then throw in the cherry tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper, turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover until the pasta is ready. The above process should take between 5 and 10 mins.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the pan with the other ingredients. Do not shake off too much water from the Orecchiette and retain half a mug of the pasta water.
Pour over 2 more glugs of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste (I cannot give quantities for these as everyone has different tastes. Adding the balsamic will add some sweetness and a touch of acidity). Taste and then season if you feel it needs extra. Toss everything and serve straight away.
This can also work as a warm or cold pasta dish for picnics.