Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce









The beginning of a new year always seems to call for some sort of detox, cleanse or diet (or all three together) and generally imposing on us an imperative to repent for our ‘sins’ aka holiday excesses. This requires some will for martyrdom and in most cases sets one up for failure within a few days anyway. A big part of the phenomenon called French paradox is the absence of regret and the ability to savour (and indulge in) the food without fretting constantly. So, why not leave all the guilt where it belongs and just eat a few more greens? Especially when those greens are purple sprouting broccoli and come with this wonderfully assertive dipping sauce that is reminiscent of bagna cauda and gentleman’s relish.


Broccoli rabe with anchovy sauce

It is about time that these pretty stems or their cousins broccoli rabe / rapini are hitting the markets again and supplement the vegetable display and our larder. Not that I have eaten enough kale and brussels sprouts and beetroot yet nor have I raided my own balcony cavolo nero plantation sufficiently. If you are still worried about a cleanse and your intake of healthy foods, these purple beauties are in fact a leafy green, a cruciferous food and contain a lot of vitamins and minerals as well as plenty health benefits attributed to them. If you find the taste of these stems which recall the German Stilmus a little too cabbage-y but are willing to be converted than the anchovy dipping sauce is the way to go. Plenty of anchovies and olive oil form a golden emulsion seasoned with thyme, basil, garlic and a pinch of chilli that is quite divine and equally good drizzled on toasted country bread when you have finished with the broccoletti (a myriad of names for the same thing). Of course, since this is a bagna cauda hack all other vegetables like little cauliflower florets, chicory leaves, radicchio, fennel shards, carrot sticks or tiny broccoli stems aka broccolini, bimi or tenderstems (this time we are talking about broccoli proper) etc. can be dipped, too.


Purple sprouting broccoli

Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Cookbook


Purple sprouting broccoli (1 bunch per person)

a small tin (50g) anchovy fillets in (olive) oil
⅛ l (125ml) olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1-2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3-5 small basil leaves
one sprig of thyme, stripped
red chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper
black pepper
knob of butter


Wash broccoli and steam for about. 4 minutes. In the meantime blend the remaining ingredients (except the butter but including the oil from the anchovy tin) into a smooth sauce and warm with a knob of butter over a low flame. Serve immediately.




Deutsches Rezept:

Broccoli rabe with anchovy sauce

Violette Brokkoliköpfe mit Sardellensauce

Ich bin mir nicht mehr sicher unter welchem Namen der purple sprouting broccoli auf dem Markt verkauft wurde, daher violette Brokkoliköpfe als Arbeitstitel. Anchovysauce mit kleinen Änderungen nach Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls The River Cottage Cookbook


Violette Brokkoliköpfe (ein Bund per Person)

eine kleine Dose (50g) Sardellenfilets in (Oliven-)Öl
⅛ l (125ml) Olivenöl
2 Knoblauchzehen
1-2 TL Dijonsenf
2 TL Rotweinessig
3-5 Basilikumblätter
Blättchen von einem Zweig Thymian
rote Chiliflocken oder Pul biber
schwarzer Pfeffer
ein Stückchen Butter


Brokkoliköpfchen für ca. 4 Minuten dämpfen. In der Zwischenzeit die restlichen Zutaten (ohne die Butter aber einschließlich des Öls aus der Sardellendose) zu einer homogenen Sauce pürieren und bei niedriger Hitze zusammen mit der Butter erwärmen. Sofort servieren.







14 thoughts on “Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy sauce

  1. This looks simple and delicious, I love it! I often make pasta with broccoli and anchovies. But I’ve yet to see sprouting broccoli at a French market. Looks like a perfect tender veggie.

    • Darya, thank you. Hard to find, I admit, they are appearing on big city German markets now but substitute the tiny broccolini stems which are easier to find in France – and really delicious. N xx

  2. I love the anchovy sauce and will try it soon. Here in California many people fret about their diet and eat dull salads. I’m on the French side in enjoying my food, maybe eating less and watching my carbs.

    • I am eager to know how you like the sauce, Gerlinde. What a shame about your California experience, I have to say, I had the exact opposite impression when we lived in the Bay Area and savoured the abundance of exciting food, cuisines and restaurants. Eating less was sometimes really hard…

  3. This sounds so delicious Nicole. And the purple sprouting broccoli is so photogenic, too – I love that header picture! It took me a long time to appreciate anchovies, but I’m really starting to love them now. Which is a bonus as my husband adores them (he always asks for extra on pizza). I will definitely try your anchovy sauce, I think he’ll be back for seconds 😉 x

    • Thanks, Laura. Great to hear that you are coming round to anchovies, I always think they are only second only to salt and make everything a little tastier. Lamb and anchovies, blows your mind. N xx

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