I came to brassicas late in life. As I child I loved cabbage, but in the hot climates where I was born and grew up this vegetable is more tender than in Northern parts and is almost invariably eaten raw as part of a salad (as in, for example, coleslaw). The whole idea of cooked cabbage or cabbage-like vegetables always seemed faintly gross to me, and of course the smell brassicas give off when cooked in water doesn't help. In fact the first time I ever tried broccoli I immediately threw up, and to this day I will run a mile rather than have anything to do with Brussels sprouts.

So how come I'm noding broccoli recipes? Well it's all down to two things: vanity and Thai food. I was gradually reconciled to broccoli in adulthood afrer first seeing (and tasting) the amazing things Thai people to with it, especially when oyster sauce gets involved; and, having always been vain enough to want to keep my svelte form, I have now become old enough and fat enough to need to do something about it. Enter vegetables in large quantities.

Now, despite my new-found commitment to a healthy diet, I can't just munch on carrot sticks all my life, because I have a special someone to take into consideration, and that special someone hates broccoli. And in view of my relatively recent conversion to its joys, I can't exactly blame him! I do occasionally force some down him in boiled or stir-fried form, but I've been looking for a long time for some guise under which we can both enjoy this nutritious side dish equally. The below has been my latest attempt - and although it didn't convert His Highnes to the brassica religion or bring tears of joy to his eyes, it was certainly met with a lot more enthusiasm than broccoli ever has done before.

So, if you too have recalcitrant cohabitants, or if you just fancy a change from your usual way of cooking broccoli, try the following:

  • 1 head of broccoli (about 250g/.5lb)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup grated cheese (about 100g), any kind you like
  • A little oil for frying

  1. Wash the broccoli and separate it into florets. Peel the stem and cut into strips about 1cm thick. Place the stems in a pot of boiling water, and add the florets 1 minute later. When the water comes back to the boil, drain the briccoli and run under some cold running water (sneff would rightly tell you to plunge it into a bowl of ice water, but who can be bothered to at home? :). Set aside in the colander to drain completely - the last thing you need is any water mixing in with the cheese and egg, bleurgh.

  2. Slice the onion and garlic thinly. In a heavy pan, quickly fry the onion on a high heat - we want to brown it, not sweat it, as the sweet pungency this develops will really lift an otherwise mild-flavoured dish. Add the garlic when the onion begins to brown and toss all together for another 2-3 minutes, taking care not to burn. Set aside to cool completely, otherwise when you combine the dish the heat will start cooking the egg.

  3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season well. Mix in the grated cheese, then the onion/garlic and finally the broccoli pieces. Place in an oven proof dish, preferably a glass one as you will have much less sticking that way. You can keep the casserole in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking.

  4. Bake in a hot oven (Gas 6, 190-200C) for a minimum of 25 minutes. Exact cooking times depend on the depth of your dish, but the basic guide is that you want all the egg to cook through. No runny egg please!

Allow the dish to settle for a few minutes out of the oven before serving. Goes well with most meat dishes and the meaty fishes. You might also try some of the below variations:

  • Chop some fresh parsley, sage, tarragon or chives into the egg mixture.
  • For a more low-fat version, grill rather than fry the onions and use half-fat cheese.
  • Add a gratin of breadcrumbs to the top.
  • Finish off with a thin layer of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflower florets.

There are literally dozens of other things you can do and ingredients (pancetta, mushrooms, almonds) you can add - the only limit is your imagination and the contents of your fridge. Enjoy!

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