One of the worst jobs I have ever done (and there have been a few, sadly) was during my summer school holiday when 17. Desperate to make a few pounds to use on a camping holiday in France and Spain, I accepted a job in the kitchens of a local Oxford hospital. Soul-destroying? Yes. I think the budget per meal was about £0.20, and the calibre of what was cooked/annihilated gave hope to the very worst school food had to offer.
The head cook (I am not willing to give him the name ‘chef’) could not have enjoyed his work any less if he tried, and was always in such a foul mood. The other staff, even is they had aspirations or motivation to cook anything resembling pleasant, certainly didn’t give the impression of wanting to be where they were. It is also the only time I have worked in a ‘professional’ kitchen. One observation I made at that time was that the vast majority of food which went out to patients came back untouched, or just nibbled. About 80-90% of everything cook ended up in a huge wastebin – its festering contents would eventually nourish some hungry pigs at a local farm (and I did feel sorry for them). In trying to show interest in what I was doing, I asked- ‘why is there so much wastage?’, to which the reply was: ‘what do you expect if it tastes like cr#p?’
One of the most revolting offerings which would emanate form the kitchen was massacred broccoli (admittedly, that was not the official name on the menu). Their approach was to take something once packed with nutrients and vitamins and boil the hell out of it. Too green? Keep boiling. Too firm, keep boiling. Ultimately, the head cook was not content until all colour and benefits were dutifully removed, resulting in a grey, bland, soggy pulp.
I love vegetables, and greens in particular- and tenderstem broccoli is up there with those I rate the most . My favourite method to cook broccoli is using my tiered steamer with a glass lid. Whilst I think steamed broccoli is really tasty on its own, I am quite the fan of Steamed Broccoli with garlic and red chilli.
Steamed Broccoli with garlic and red chilli
- 200 g tenderstem broccoli
- 1 x red chilli
- 1 x large clove crushed garlic
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- First of all, finely slice the chilli at an angle, and remove seeds and membrane (unless you like it a bit hotter).
- Peel and crush the clove of garlic, and add to a ramekin or small dish. Add the chilli, pour over the olive oil, mix well and leave for a few minutes for the flavours to absorb into the oil.
- Meanwhile, steam the broccoli over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until just tender. My preference is for the stems to still be al dente.
- Remove the broccoli from the steamer, otherwise it will continue cooking. It does not take long for a crunchy texture to be substituted by overcooked.
- in a small bowl, combine all ingredients together, mix through, season to taste and enjoy.