This alien looking vegetable a joy to photograph, but even more importantly it is absolutely delicious. Several years ago I first saw these trifid-esque brassicas in New York at the Union Square farmers market. Their delicate, pale green spirals caught my attention and started an unrequited love affair. I say unrequited because the things are so darn hard to find here in the UK! I can't wait to have a go at growing my own.
For the mathematicians or the trance kids among us romanesco is fascinating because the vegetable actually approximates a natural fractal. Each of the 'cones' are arranged in a classic logarithmic spiral and each 'cone' itself is composed on smaller buds arranged in the same formation. Like galaxies, hurricanes and nautilus shells, the romanesco's spiraling formation is really quite beautiful to look at. I was not entirely surprised when I found jewellery made from romanesco casts on display at the Collect exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery earlier this year.
My favourite way to eat romanesco is one of the simplest. Try to find a hard, sharp pecorino cheese, ideally a pecorino Sardo, but a creamier pecorino Toscano will still be delicious.
a romanesco pecorino cheese half a lemon a really good quality extra virgin olive oil sea salt flakes and black pepper
Bring a small pan of water to the boil. While you wait, break off individual cones from the romanesco and then slice them quite thinly from top to bottom. I like making lots of weird yet lovely shapes and leaving some of the tips whole so they look like little trees in profile.
When the water is boiling, throw in a couple good pinches of salt and then add the slices of romanesco. Cover the pan and keep the heat high. As soon as you can hear the water coming to the boil again immediately take it off the heat and drain under cold running water to stop further cooking. You could be super professional and dunk the drained slices into a bowl of iced water, but a cold tap will also do fine.
Scatter the romanesco over a large wide plate and squeeze lemon juice all over. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Top everything off with shavings of pecorino cheese. You can use a vegetable peeler to peel off thin shavings of cheese, or just grate it finely with a microplane.
Season with salt and pepper and tuck in, probably with your fingers.
I hope this will end up as a collection of recipes, restaurants and anything else that celebrates the wonderful diversity of foods and how we prepare and eat them. Some ingredients may seem unusual to you, but I love learning about new cooking techniques and tasting new foods. I am fascinated by the way in which different cultures have made their food into something more than just fuel. This is a reflection of what excited me at that time and season. Above all it is a record of where I was and what was eaten...and how to bring those memories back again.