Making Creamy Broccoli Bake!


Creamy Broccoli Bake
This is perhaps the most interesting recipe I have produced yet. You see, our gas bottle has run out, so the challenge is to create a nutritious and tasty meal using a microwave and a little electric oven.
This may also be useful for people living in digs or rented rooms who do not have access to much more than that.

This recipe, as given, is produced in two parts. If you wish to adapt for a regular hob/oven then you can run the two parts together and it'll take maybe ten minutes to prepare. All in all, it is quite zippy and makes the basis of a lovely meal for two.

What we are going to do is, essentially: part-cook some broccoli, make a calorie-heavy Béchamel sauce (well, sort of...) and splat that on top of the broccoli. The whole lot bakes until it looks good. Your girlfriend will be impressed, you will be impressed, and the both of you will have a nice meal. It is practically foolproof (hey, I made it, so can you!) and it tastes good.

I must confess I'm a fan of broccoli. Love the stuff. If you are like "ewwww, it's a green slimy thing" then why not give it a try but stop cooking it when it still has a little bit of crunch to it? Like how it is supposed to be.
If you can't stand broccoli, you can substitute cauliflower.


What you will need:
Broccoli! (the odd colour is from the camera flash)

You could, alternatively, use 500ml milk and no crème/cream, but it won't be as rich.

Equipment (my method)

The main constituents of the sauce.
Equipment (hob/cooker method)
The cooker method is not described any further, improvise, the method should be easy to adapt. :-)


The Broccoli

Bring some water to the boil in a kettle (quicker than using the microwave). To be honest, the amount is something between 250ml and 500ml so pop in a litre, you can make a cuppa with the rest.

Chopped broccoli, before cooking.
While the kettle is doing its stuff, unwrap the broccoli and chop it into pieces about the size of a chicken nugget. You don't need to finely chop, but the smaller the pieces are the quicker they'll cook.
Cut out and discard any part that is yellowing and anything that looks like a bug or maggot or anything non-broccoli-like. The stalk is kinda hard to eat, so hack off the outside and finely chop the inside. You'll end up with 350g-400g of broccoli pieces.

Drop the broccoli into your microwave bowl and fill it with boiling water until the broccoli is halfway underwater. Pop on the lid, whizz it into the microwave. Set the dial to ten minutes.

It will probably take four or five minutes for the water to come back to boiling, plus another five minutes of actual cooking.

Take the bowl out of the microwave, keep the lid on, and give it a few wrist-flicks. The idea is to shake up the contents so what was out of the water will now maybe be under. It's not a precision science, so don't get hung up on this. Failing that, if you have a good fitting lid, just shake the bowl a few times. But attention, it's boiling water!

Throw it back in the microwave for around five minutes.

Now open the bowl and try a piece of broccoli. It should be almost-cooked but still with a firmness. If you are the sort of Brit that likes your veg boiled to death, you'll hate it like this, go cook it for another 10 minutes or so...

Assuming this is acceptable, strain off the water. Now take the knife and slash around the broccoli. It'll be soft so you ought to be able to cut it up quite easily.
When you are satisfied, turn it out onto the baking tray and level it out with your fork.

The broccoli in the baking tray.
Turn on the oven now. 180°C (about 'gas mark 7' I think?).


The sauce

This part is faffy. Not difficult, just involved.

The butter and flour mixture.
In your microwave bowl, drop in the flour and the butter. Place this into your microwave (without its lid) and nuke it for twenty seconds. Now take your fork and stir vigorously.

Repeat the above (nuke 20, stir hard) until the flour has sorta dissolved in the butter and it forms a pleasing paste.
If you use a "low fat spread" (shame on you!), the first 20 seconds may be all it takes. For those using real butter, it may take 40-60 seconds.

Now add the crème fraîche and the milk. Then add pepper and salt according to your tastes. At this stage you could throw in a few other spices that sound nice, but apart from a dash of herbes de Provence (or maybe a touch of basil), I would be inclined to leave this dish to its own tastes.
The only advice I would give is to add as much salt as you think it needs, and then a touch more. But not silly amounts, okay? This isn't a bag of greasy chips!

Finally add all but a generous pinch of the cheese. Obviously the best cheese is a mature cheddar, however that is not known here in France so I had to "make do" with grated emmental. You could try experimenting with other cheeses - mascarponi or edam for example? Let me know how you get on if you do!
[tip mascarponi is gushy, if you use this, reduce the milk accordingly]

Don't panic, it gets better.
Mix it all up with your fork. Do not worry if it looks like a horrible mess with toxic slime at the bottom. It will improve, I promise.

Put this mixture back into the microwave. As before you will be doing a cook-stir-cook-stir routine, however you first need to cook for a few minutes in order to bring up the temperature. Do not bring it straight to the boil - cook for about a minute and then stir. Repeat until it gets hot. When it reaches being hot, reduce the cooking time to thirty seconds.
When you stir, stir well.

After five to eight minutes, you will see your efforts come together. The sauce will become quite thick, pleasingly so.

Testing the consistency of the sauce.

When you are happy with its consistency, tip it over top of the broccoli in the baking tray.



The Broccoli Bake going in....
The final touch, smooth out the sauce with your fork and sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top. Place it into your oven and cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes; until it starts to become nicely browned on top.
...and coming out perfectly cooked.



A good cuppa can fix anything!
Spoon it out and eat it at once. Eat on its own or serve with an accompaniment such as peas (frozen peas are best, you can do these in the microwave while the bake is baking...).

I'm not going to go all ponce and say "serve with a light nappa valley white". Drink what you want with it, it's your meal. From a Jack Daniels to a cranberry juice, I couldn't care. I would suggest that you keep to delicate tastes as something too strong (like a brandy or espresso) will swamp your mouth and you'll lose the tastes of the meal you spent time creating. My pick was a Tetley. Hit the spot exactly.


Bonne appetit! (as they say around these parts).


Return to recipes index

Copyright © 2008 Rick Murray