Sprouting broccoli with chilli, puy lentils, Cratloe Hills sheep's cheese (and a big bowl of mash)
February, time for the sprouting broccoli to make an appearance. It’s had a tough winter, but then it’s made for tough winters. Or at least for heralding Spring out the other side of them. Down on Gortnanain it’s close, very close – a few optimistic shoots are sprouting purple heads. Any day now, the whole crop will burst forth, singing jolly Spring songs, no doubt.
Come gentle spring
Come at winter’s end
Gone is the pallor
from a promise that’s nature’s gift
Waiting for the colour of spring
Let me breathe
Let me breathe the colour of spring
You’ll be coming in to Paradiso, of course, to see what wonderful ways we’ve concocted this time round to feature this first green of the year. But if you can get hold of some for home, try this combination of comfort food and zingy, bold flavours.
Boil or steam the potatoes. Heat the milk in a large saucepan until warm, but not hot, then add the butter, allowing it to melt before adding the potatoes. Turn off the heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
At the same time, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a wide pan or wok, and fry the onion, broccoli, garlic and chillies over high heat for 3–4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onion is beginning to brown. Add the tomato and lentils and continue frying for about 2 minutes more. When the broccoli is tender, add two more tablespoons of olive oil, the same amount of water, and a pinch of salt.
Serve a generous mound of mash on each of four warmed shallow bowls. Place some broccoli beside each portion, pour the pan juices over it, and sprinkle some Cratloe Hills cheese over everything.