Charred broccoli salad with toasted seeds, olives & feta

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I’ve become somewhat obsessed with this salad. As well as being completely moreish and nourishing it has single-handedly revived my like of broccoli. I say ‘like’ rather than ‘love’ as I’ve never been particularly enamoured with this vegetable. It can be so ordinary and bland if not cooked well and I find it has to be treated in just the right way or I’m happy to just walk on by. I’m convinced that this method of preparing broccoli produces the most delicious results. I first came upon the technique, if you can call it that, via an Ottolenghi salad. Yotam creates a salad centred solely around broccoli which is cooked along with garlic and chilli for a simple yet moreish side.

Here I take this method of very briefly blanching the broccoli then scorching it in a griddle pan and use it as a component of a very tasty, hearty, nutritious salad. It can either be served as a side or as part of a vegetarian main. I love serving generous portions of this salad alongside oven-roasted wedges or polenta chips…a wholly satisfying mid-week meal.

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The trick with cooking the broccoli is to cut it up into small florets and blanch it ever so slightly in rapidly boiling water. The broccoli is then drained thoroughly and left aside to dry before being briefly scorched in a hot griddle pan. This leaves the broccoli with slightly blackened edges giving the salad a wonderful charred flavour whilst retaining a beautiful crunch and texture.

Alongside the star of the show this salad is made up of charred courgette, red pepper, toasted seeds, red onion, kalamata olives, loads of fresh herbs and some crumbled feta. It’s dressed with a variation on a Jamie Oliver yoghurt dressing which gives it a tangy finish. Super tasty and ridiculously good for you. Can’t argue with that.

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CHARRED BROCCOLI SALAD WITH TOASTED SEEDS, OLIVES & FETA

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side)
1/2 head of broccoli
1 medium courgette
1/2 red capsicum – deseeded
1/2 small red onion – finely sliced
1/4 cup seeds (I like to use a mix of pumpkin and sunflower) – lightly toasted
Handful each of fresh mint and flat-leaf parsley – roughly chopped
Large handful rocket leaves
100g feta
3 tbsp greek yoghurt
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD
1. Firstly, put the finely sliced red onion into a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside for 10 minutes. This process makes the onion super-crisp and crunchy and mellows out the flavour.
2. Use a paring knife to split the half head of broccoli into small florets. Put a small amount of water into the bottom of a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Blanch the broccoli (lid on) for 1 minute only then drain in a colander and run under the cold tap to stop the cooking process. Drain again in the colander then spread out on a few layers of paper towels to allow to dry thoroughly.
3. Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Put the broccoli into a small bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss well to coat. It’s important not to put oil directly into the pan as it will start to smoke.
4. Tip the broccoli into the hot pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly blackened around the edges. Don’t overcook! Tip the broccoli into a large bowl and set aside.
5. Chop the courgette on the diagonal into thick slices (about 8mm thick). Put the sliced courgette into the small bowl and oil/season as you did with the broccoli (the courgette does not need to be blanched). Put into the hot griddle pan in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly charred, then flip over and cook on the other side. Tip into the bowl along with the broccoli.
6. Chop the red capsicum into small cubes and add to the salad bowl along with the rocket leaves and fresh herbs.
7. Drain the water from the red onion and gently blot between layers on paper towels to remove the excess moisture and add to the salad bowl.
8. Crumble the feta over the salad, add the toasted seeds and toss well to combine. Note: only add the seeds if you ready to serve the salad straight away. If you add them too early they will loose their crunch.
9. Combine the yoghurt, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small bowl and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Whisk well to combine then add to the salad bowl and turn a few times to coat well in the dressing. Serve immediately.

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