Louisa Read does the vegetable purchasing at Marks & Spencers and she deserves a medal for scaling new heights, for being adventurous. Her job description must include, ‘calculated risk taker’ as a key competency.
Marks & Spencers have been pioneering purveyors of red Brussels sprouts, of kalettes…. and last week I discovered biancoli…. a sort of cauliflower-broccoli hybrid, what broccolini (Tenderstem) is to broccoli, biancoli is to cauliflower.
If you think of it like that – a sort of delicate version of cauliflower, you get a good idea of what it’s like. It’s sweeter than cauliflower, without the sharpness of cauliflower or the stiff structure. This means that I don’t recommend it for a dish such as cauliflower cheese because the taste isn’t man enough to stand up to the cheese and the cooking process makes it go soggy. It goes down well with children, but the Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster thought it was a bit bland and didn’t have enough crunch.
On the other hand, its lack of stiff stem means it doesn’t take so long to cook.
Biancoli was developed by the Japanese company, Tokita Seed – they call it Fioretto – and sometimes (during a short spell at Waitrose for example) it’s also known simply as ‘sweet sprouting broccoli’, and, in Japan, as Karifurore.
Grown in Lincolnshire from August to October, the season is extended throughout the year by farms growing it in Kenya.
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Various ways of cooking biancoli
- You can use it raw in salads and crudités
- The Japanese like to pickle it
- Steam, boil or stir fry for about five minutes
- Blanched, and dressed with butter and nutmeg
- Blanched, in shredded floppy lettuce and fresh pea salad with a mayonnaise or buttermilk dressing
- Or try it, chargrilled with Parmesan and lime – as suggested below.
Recipe for chargrilled biancoli with parmesan and lime (based on a suggestion given on the packet).
- 160g/7 oz biancoli
- 4 tbsps thick yoghurt
- 4 tbsps grated parmesan
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper or Spanish sweet smoked paprika
- Juice and zest of half a lime
- ¼ tsp sumac
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Blanch the biancoli in boiling water for a minute, drain.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients
- Place the biancoli in a flattish ovenproof dish
- Cover with the yoghurt mix
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes
- Serve warm