Monday, 5 January 2009

What to do with frozen broccoli

I don't normally buy frozen broccoli but found a 1 kilo bag for a pound in Somerfield yesterday which was less than a third the £3.33 the store was charging for a kilo of fresh broccoli. In fact it was even better value, arguably, given that there weren't any huge stalks though as I've mentioned before there are things you can do with those. It's also probably more healthy given that it was frozen soon after picking and hasn't been lying around in a storeroom for weeks.

BUT - and of course there's a but - it doesn't have the taste or texture of fresh broccoli, especially broccoli that's locally grown.

The worst thing you can do IMO is to follow the pack instructions and cook it in boiling water for 5 minutes by which time any remaining taste will have disappeared and it will have been reduced to an unappetising mush. In fact I wouldn't put water anywhere near it.

I tried making a broccoli quiche with some assorted bits of leftover cheese in the fridge which was reasonably successful. I sweated off a chopped onion, added a large clove of finely chopped garlic and thawed the broccoli just enough to chop it into smaller florets (see top pic) then carried on the usual way. If I was making it again I'd use a stronger cheese such as Stilton or a mature cheddar or extra Parmesan. Looked nice though.

Last night I stir-fried a batch - again thawed for 10 minutes or so until I could slice it - adding a little crushed garlic, grated ginger and light soy sauce and that again tasted perfectly nice though admittedly more of the seasonings than the vegetable.

I reckon you could also make a decent soup whizzed up from briefly cooked frozen broccoli, frozen peas and spring onions if they were cheap enough (they're a ridiculous 85p a bunch locally at the moment) and a good bit of parsley or mint.

So - no water and strong accompanying flavours. That seems to be the answer.

Do you use frozen veg (apart from peas) and if so how do you find it's best to cook them?


Anonymous said...

Soup does work, provided it is not simmered too long - adding a small quantity of cooked rice (left over, of course) gives a good velvety texture when liquidised. A well softened ordinary onion is fine. If the broccoli really is insipid, a touch of lemon zest works wonders too. Frozen peas + aspargus stalks + onion + rice is another winner, provied you sieve it after liquidising.

Anonymous said...

oops - by asparagus stalks, I meant trimmings - and I freeze these during the British season for future reference

Anonymous said...

Interesting one - as I remember Gary Rhodes getting slagged off years back for using frozen peas in his restauarants but then it turns out frozen is better than " fresh " that's been sitting in the shops a few days :P

I'd say lemon, garlic and ginger works wonders with insipid green veg of all kinds combined with a little real butter if not stir frying. I don't buy frozen broccoli but had been thinking about it. Sometime I just want a small handful without going to the trouble of buying a whole head of it, even though I'd use up the rest in soup.

I do buy peas, spinach and edamame beans frozen. I sometimes blanch, prep and freeze excess fresh veg. I also have been thinking about buying frozen sweetcorn again, something I haven't done for years because when I last bought it, it was tasteless. Again its that " I just need a spoonful " thing where I don't necessarily want to open a whole tin.

Jean said...

I hate frozen brocolli and wouldn't have the patience to experiment with it the way you did Fiona.

I buy frozen peas, mini corn-on-the-cobs because my girls love them, and spinach which is as good as fresh and less waste.

Sol said...

I'm with notsupermum, no way jose, frozen broccoli make me feel ill. it goes funny, cauliflower can go like that as well very quickly.

We eat frozen peas, carrots at a push if no fresh in the shop. I freeze my garden runner beans, broad beans and french beans after blanching.

I also keep frozen garlic, that has been roasted. I then break some off and add it to what ever I am cooking. Asparagus, yes, cauliflower and broccoli No.Chillies that I have grown and then chopped up, they live in the freezer. Freeze it on a flat sheet and then tip it into a box.

Cant think of anything else but I am sure there is more

Emski said...

Lately at home we've eaten a lot broccoli, anchovy and garlic spaghetti - I reckon this one would be a good one for frozen broccoli as it's chopped up really fine and sauteed, thereby giving you the flavour with less of the rubbery texture. Add the chopped broccoli to a pan where you already have some finely chopped garlic, sweated for a few minutes in lots of olive oil. Chopped anchovies go in last and then toss the spaghetti in it.

Other than broccoli, I agree with notSupermum, frozen spinach is ace and you don't have the disappointment of a huge bag cooking to far less than you need, as with fresh! I wish it was easier to find frozen broad beans, that is definitely something I'd stock up on if I found a local shop that carried them...

Fiona Beckett said...

Wow! Didn't realise frozen veg excited such strong passions. Great suggestions from you all - I particularly like Anonymous's idea about adding lemon zest to broccoli (can you tell us what your name is Anon though maybe I know you ;-) and Emski's idea of adding anchovies.

With all these ideas notSupermum and Sliceoflife you've got to give frozen broccoli another go!

Agree with you all on spinach - so long as it's leaf spinach rather than chopped which goes watery and mushy. And frozen peppers I discovered when I was writing the Beyond Baked Beans books aren't bad if you stir-fry them and considerably cheaper than fresh. (The cost of single peppers is ridiculous)

Oh, and I agree - frozen broad beans are great, if you can find them. Sainsbury's and Waitrose used to stock them, Emski, not sure if they still do. Haven't tried frozen edamame beans though - where did you find those, greenlady?

Anonymous said...

I got mine in a local " health food " shop - which although small is absolutely packed with all kinds of interesting and useful stuff. Its an independent so its not cheap, but good for " a little goes a long way " ingredients. I have also seen frozen edamame beans in ethnic shops though, and they'd probably be a bit cheaper. I like things that can double as a green veg and protein all in one go :D

Anonymous said...

I always have frozen veg in the house. Mostly for when I'm otherwise out of fresh stuff, although I tend to only use frozen peas and edamames.

With broccoli I tend to agree that it needs to be in things, with other strong flavours and only minimally cooked.

My fall-back dish is a frittata with something like fetta on top. It's a great way of finishing up almost anything leftover, using vegies that are past their prime, or just making a simple end-of-week meal.

Fiona Beckett said...

Ah, frittata! I did think of that but forgot to mention it - thanks, Kathryn. I'm a big fan of them too. Cold just as much as hot. They're good as a wholewheat pitta filling

And thanks for the edamame tip-off greenlady. I really like them so will definitely look out for them.

Anonymous said...

Frittata as a pitta filling. Brilliant Fiona - that has never ever crossed my mind.

Matt said...

I used to buy frozen brocolli and cauliflower when I was a student as a way of cheaply getting some veg into what I was eating, and without going shopping all the time. I used to chop it fairly small and add it to whatever tomato-based thing I was cooking - curry, chilli, etc.

It was fairly innocuous and, for me, worked well.

Now always tend to have frozen peas and broad beans and again, I tend to add them direct from frozen into whatever I'm cooking - curry, risotto, etc.

Hayley said...

I love frozen veg! We're a low income family and we do a once monthly grocery shop (with occasional top ups for fresh things). Because of this we practically live out of the freezer and storecupboard. I always like to have enough ingredients stashed away so that towards the end of the month when the cupboards are bare we can still scrape together dinner!

I love tinned and frozen fruit and veg as it lasts for ages and I can't bear the thought of throwing away produce that has gone off just because I didn't get round to using it.

I ALWAYS buy frozen peas, sometimes swetcorn (I prefer tinned), spinach and sliced mushrooms (I'm the only one in the family that likes them so I keep some for when I'm just cooking for me. It's also pointless to buy fresh as I could never eat a whole pack before they go off).

I've also tried a frozen swede and carrot mix, just cook, drain and mash and add a knob of butter and seasoning, yum! This month I'm going to try sweet potato chips from Tesco for a change.

My tip for cooking frozen veg would be to just add it straight from the freezer into something 'saucy' like a casserole and let it cook through in the sauce. I use frozen beans and peas in a green thai curry, frozen butternut squash in a red thai curry and frozen sweetcorn in a chilli.

I even used frozen spinach (tinned new potatoes too) in this tart that I made for grandparents 160th birthday party, there were no complaints or leftovers! Hayley x

Fiona Beckett said...

That's a good idea for students, Matt. Will mention it on my Beyond Baked Beans site ( for those of you who haven't visited it)

And some fantastic suggestions, Hayley. I've tried the swede and carrot mix too which is great as swedes are such a pain to peel and chop up) but haven't tried frozen sweet potato chips or butternut squash. Shall look out for those.

Good tart recipe too. I like Rachel Allen's recipes. Tinned potatoes aren't bad if you fry them or spice them up a bit. See this post on the BBB Facebook page

Anonymous said...

I roast frozen broccoli in a big tin with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. I find roasting it helps evaporate some of the moisture and firms up the texture. I either eat the roasted broccoli as an accompaniment, or else use it as a frittata filling with salmon trimmings or fried cubes of pancetta (currently £1 for a double pack from Lidl)

maggiedon said...

Waitrose stocks a brilliant product - frozen roasted mediterranean veg. Wonderful for adding to a basic tomato sauce made from tinned toms at this time of year for a quick, gutsy ratatouille-type dressing for pasta. I know it is unseasonal, but sometimes you want something zingy in these dark, cold days!

Anonymous said...

I buy frozen edamame from Fresh and Wild - used to be £1.97 for 500g but has gone up to £2-something.

Lasts me the working week though

Unknown said...

You all have very interesting suggestions about the uses of frozen broccoli! I have an elderly aunt that I live with and she is a big fan of freezing everything! She also likes to buy in bulk, but often gets confused about what does well with freezing and what doesn't. This is how we came to posses a very large bag of frozen fresh broccoli florets without the preparation of blanching first. Any suggestions how to rescue this broccoli and make it into something edible?

Riz said...

Thanks for the ideas...I've got a big bag o broc and needed some ideas other than boiling. I think a crustless quiche will be the order of the evening, praps with some red onion and mushroom and danish blue cheese. As Raymond Blan says, 'wala'.