Broccoli and Chestnut Mushroom Salad with a Subtle Heat
Browsing through the vegetable display at Saturdays Farmers Market, held every second Saturday at Great Garnets Farm, I saw these beautiful looking heads of broccoli. Next to them was a box filled with plump fresh red chillies and ginger and I had to acknowledge that these ingredients were now an integral part of our normal life. They are definitely not native to Britain. However finding them at this very busy farmers market in a secluded spot in the heart of Essex about 45 miles from London brought it home that we embrace other cultures, cooking styles, flavours and aromas into our normal daily life, definitely a warm and fuzzy feeling.
This sight is not rare and by no means am I saying that it’s wrong, my theory is that if we mix the “old” with the “new” we end up with spectacular individual and rather wonderful dishes. I loved the way the stall holder marked all his produce, especially where it came from, so I knew exactly that the broccoli was grown locally. Armed with two plump heads of broccoli, round shallots and chillies I wondered off to the next stall.
To be entirely honest it was actually the smell of Colin’s mushrooms, in a good helping of butter, sizzling in a pan on a tiny camp stove. As it was freezing cold I “snuggled up” to Colin and we started talking about how he grows his mushrooms a few miles up the road. Coldham Wood Mushrooms are grown organically, herbicide and pesticide free. Colin continued to explain how he had grown mushrooms all his life and was still loving it enough to get up at the crack of dawn to stand in front of me to tell me all about it. They grow chestnut, flat cap, oyster and shiitake mushrooms all in his unique manner. What I liked the most about this conversation was that he is committed to deliver his mushrooms to local businesses, restaurants, pubs, schools and farmers markets. It must be a good thing and certainly I bagged a couple of punnets of Colin’s fresh mushrooms.
As I have sourced local organic mushrooms and broccoli, I need to use as much of it as possible. At home we work really hard to limit the amount of food waste, well there are a few nibbles for the wormery in the garden but we try to minimise the contributions to the landfill sites. Hence the use of nearly the whole head of broccoli, florets, stalk and all. It’s interesting to know how delicious the stalk is and it certainly adds an extra dimension to your final dish.They do not even need to be cooked as it tastes just as good raw. The best part is that you end up with nearly a quarter more, in volume, than if you had only used the florets, a bonus in my eyes.
This dish is versatile and perfect for nearly every occasion; we enjoyed it warm as a side dish to go with slow roasted belly of pork, the left overs were just as delicious for lunch the following day. This recipe will definitely feature at my BBQ table this summer and will be neatly packed into my picnic baskets.
- 2 heads of broccoli
- 100g round shallots, peeled and sliced
- 3tbs olive oil
- 1 chilli de-seeded and julienned
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g white wine vinegar
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 15 chestnut mushrooms, cut into 1/4's
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Poppy seeds for garnishing
Remove the broccoli florets from the stalk and cut them all the same size. Bring a large saucepan with salted water to a rapid boil and blanch the florets until tender, refresh in ice-cold water, drain and set aside.
Peel the stalk and use a mandolin to finely slice into round wafer thin disks.
Peel and finely slice the shallots. Heat a large non-stick frying pan with 1 tbs of olive oil and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the julienned chili, reduce the heat and sauté for a further 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar and lemon zest, let the sugar dissolve and bring to the boil. Once the vinegar starts to boil remove the pan from the heat and add the wafer thin broccoli stalk disks, stir and set aside to cool and infuse.
While the broccoli pickle cools, sauté the chestnut mushroom quarters in the remaining oil with seasoning until golden brown, once cooked add the juice of one lemon.
Mix the sautéed mushrooms, drained blanched broccoli and pickled broccoli stalks together. Arrange the salad in your chosen bowl or on individual plates and sprinkle poppy seeds as a garnish.
The salad is now ready to be served either slightly warm or chilled.