It would be perfectly reasonable to say that broccoli doesn’t need to be messed around, whether in its normal, tenderstem or sprouting form just steam or blanch and enjoy it as the super food that it is. But that ignores the fact that when charred and blistered and crisp at the edges, there’s a whole other level of broccoli to be enjoyed. You can achieve this effect by roasting or grilling (though the broccoli should be blanched first, so that the vegetable is tender and juicy as well as crisp). I love charred broccoli with the crumbs – alongside salmon, tofu or slow-braised pork belly. But it’s a pretty adaptable side.
The umami crumbs are a garnish to accentuate the gnarly browned bits. Panko breadcrumbs (available in supermarkets and online) make for a better crunch when cooked than plain breadcrumbs. And although you can buy mushroom powder now, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you buy dried porcini and whizz them in a spice grinder. This recipe provides far more crumbs than you need, but they keep well and can be used to garnish many vegetable side dishes, or top the odd gratin or cheesy sauce. The crumbs will store well in an airtight container for at least a month.
I’ve suggested tenderstem broccoli because those long stems seem to particularly enjoy a little grill time. But the florets from a standard broccoli work well too; keep them large and cut them in half, exposing the cut sides to the heat.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 600 g tenderstem broccoli
- 1 tablespoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 4 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 100 g panko breadcrumbs
- 30 g dried porcini mushrooms
- Sea salt
- To make the umami crumbs, preheat the oven to 220˚C/Fan 200˚C/Gas 7. Spread around 2 tablespoons oil over a shallow baking tray. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs on top, and the remaining oil over that, then stir well so all the crumbs have a chance to soak up the oil. Shake the tray to level the contents, then bake on the top shelf for around 10 minutes, or until golden brown. If your tray is small and the crumbs deep, you may need to move the crumbs around with a spoon so they are evenly cooked, and they will take longer to brown.
- Tip the crumbs into a container and allow to cool. Meanwhile, use an electric spice grinder or small food processor to process the porcini to a powder. Sprinkle this over the cooled breadcrumbs along with 2 good pinches of salt and mix well. Store in an airtight container.
- When you’re ready to eat, preheat the grill to its highest setting Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Blanch the broccoli for 4 minutes, then drain well.
- Spread the broccoli over a baking tray, drizzle with the oil and toss to ensure all the stems are coated. Place the tray 5–8 cm from the heat and grill for 3 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and grill for 2–3 minutes more, or until the broccoli is browned and blistering. Decant the broccoli into a serving bowl and scatter with generous handfuls of umami crumbs (you’ll need around half the batch.