It's no wonder that Broccoli is a favoured vegetable amongst Italians - historically, it dates from Roman times, but I am very aware that this love isn't shared by a good portion of the general population.
When it comes to making a dish with broccoli, I want to make it something a little different, perhaps to encourage those that aren't fans to give it another chance.
I'm hoping that this Sformato di Broccoli will be the answer.
The best way to describe a sformato - well, it's a bit like a souffle, in that the texture is very light but unlike a souffle, it is extremely simple to get right. It's highly adaptable, you can substitute virtually any vegetable and the foundation of any variation is always a thick bechamel.
[Serves 4-6 as a starter]
250 grams broccoli (approx), cut into florets, stalk included
30 grams butter
30 grams cornflour
salt and white pepper
50 grams grated parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Goat Cheese Sauce
soft/young goat cheese (chevre)
Prepare the broccoli:
Boil the broccoli in lightly salted water until soft. Drain and the process until smooth. It should have a nice green specked appearance. Pour into a bowl and set to one side.
Make the base:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and once melted add in the cornflour. Stir to form a smooth paste and then add in the milk, a little at a time, until it has dissolved the paste. Take a whisk and whisk until it starts to thicken (using a whisk will stop any lumps forming). Season with a little salt and white pepper and once quite thick, remove from the heat and whisk in the grated parmesan.
Pour the base into the pureed broccoli - whisking until evenly distributed. Keep whisking as you slowly pour in the lightly beat eggs. The mixture will be quite slack at this stage - that is normal.
I used individual soufflé dishes and depending on the size you'll get anywhere from 4 to 6 "sformati" from the mixture.
Butter the dishes well and line the base with a circle of baking paper - this will help with the un-moulding. I like to also dust the moulds with a mix of fine breadcrumbs and grated parmesan.
Pour the batter into the moulds - aim for about ¾ full.
Bake in a preheated 170°C until puffed and golden and cooked through - these took around 35 to 40 minutes. Let them sit for a couple of minutes before un-moulding - they will deflate a little but that won't affect the taste.
Another really simple and quick idea that lifts the dish is the Goat Cheese Sauce. I find the tang of goat cheese works particularly well with broccoli, but you can do something similar using blue cheese if you prefer.
Crumble the goat cheese into a small saucepan and place over a low heat - pour in few spoonfuls of cream and then stir. Under the gentle heat the goat cheese will soften and melt into the cream to form the sauce. Once it reaches serving temperature it's ready.
Serve it under the sformato or drizzle over the top - the choice is yours.