Just what exactly is romanesco? Is it a cauliflower? Is it a type of broccoli? Some kind of alien life form? Well it turns out that although romanesco is a member of the same family (the brassica) as cauliflower and broccoli it's actually a unique vegetable in its own right. It not only looks spectacular but it tastes amazing too. But what do you do with it?
We picked one up from our local greengrocers a few weeks ago and Miss R was fascinated by the intricate patterns. Romanesco can be cooked in the same way as cauliflower. It tastes great roasted and can even be cooked and served whole.
On this occasion however I haven't roasted it but pan fried it along with the other ingredients to make a quick, veg-filled pasta lunch.
Miss R had a brilliant time helping me prepare the romanesco for lunch. When it came to eating it she was less keen but she did give it a good go. R inevitably refused to try it but he did eat some of the linguine which is something of a breakthrough because he doesn't like spaghetti. I showed him that it was a slightly different shape and he tucked in. The vagaries of picky eating never fail to baffle me! Little S, of course, loved this as did the grown ups.
Here's how to make romanesco, chickpea and fennel linguine
Ingredients (serves a family of five - two adults and three children)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 romanesco, broken into florets
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
Small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
Small handful of pine nuts, toasted
Chilli flakes, optional
Salt and pepper, optional
250g linguine or other pasta
1. Heat the olive oil in a large wok or saucepan.
2. Add the sliced onion and fennel, stir well and cook over a low heat for around 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for a further two minutes.
3. Add the romanesco florets and continue to stir fry for 10-15 minutes until softened. You can leave it with a little crunch, or cook it until soft depending on your preference.
4. In the meantime cook the linguine according to the packet instructions.
5. When the romanesco has started to soften stir through the chickpeas, lemon juice, parsley, pine nuts and chilli flakes if using. Season to taste.