Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

Designer Broccoli Helped Me Escape Reality

by 
Elizabeth Rust
November 4, 2021

The Harrods Food Hall is my escape from reality. Four rooms of what the department store’s promotional copy refers to as “the world’s greatest food emporium,” it’s where I can forget about the heaps of laundry that need folding or the dishes soaking in my sink at home. The Food Halls are a London landmark for a reason, a place where I can travel the world through food: I can easily spend hours browsing the glass display counters full of fancy caviars, sushi, curries, freshly made pasta, dim sum, chocolates, and pastries.

When I’m feeling a little peckish, I’ll grab a seat at the counter in The Grill, and watch the chefs fire £200 Kobe steaks while I sip cold sauvignon blanc. I order grilled sprouting broccoli from a man wearing a dinner jacket who calls me madam. It arrives on a white platter, lightly charred with garlic, red chilis, and lime. I squeeze the lime over the broccoli while listening to the ladies who lunch chatter about their eminent partnerships at fancy law firms, the best private schools, and their children’s piano recitals.

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This couldn’t be further from my reality. My child is at school wearing a grass stained football jersey because he wants to be just like England’s football captain Harry Kane. I didn’t have the strength or will to argue with him this morning about wearing his red state school V-neck sweater, and no doubt an email from his Head Teacher reminding me about the school’s uniform policy will be waiting for me in my inbox. I’ve signed him up for an after-school club today, a two hour extension of school, and just enough time for me to pretend that I don’t have any responsibilities awaiting me at home.

There was a time when I was a Harrods regular - not an actual shopping regular; more of a Harrods looky-loo. I’d get the bus from my office job and walk through the dining halls at 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night. The halls were mostly empty then, and I’d wait for the chefs to display the “SALE” sign when all freshly prepared food was 50% off. I’d then trot home to watch reality television, indulging in my designer foodie finds.

But then Mohamed Al-Fayed sold Harrods, and the foodie sales ended. A chef once told me Harrods lost too much money on them. “Not enough people bought it before the sale,” he said. I now pay full price for sprouting broccoli spears. Or when I get the chance, I do my very best to recreate it at home. I close my eyes and pretend just for a couple of minutes that I’m away in the Harrods dining hall. I hear the clink of champagne glasses, a white platter of charred broccoli is placed in front of me, and just for a couple of moments I can forget about the dirty dishes in the sink.

Charred Sprouting Broccoli with Garlic, Red Chili, and Lime

Prep Time: 5 Mins
 | 
Cook Time: 10 Mins
 | 
Serves 2

Ingredients

10 sprouting broccoli spears (if these are unavailable, broccolini and broccoli rabe work just as well)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 red chilis, thinly sliced

1 lime 

2 tbsp salt

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Optional: Splash of fish sauce

Prep Time: 5 Mins
 | 
Cook Time: 10 Mins
 | 
Serves 2

Ingredients

10 sprouting broccoli spears (if these are unavailable, broccolini and broccoli rabe work just as well)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 red chilis, thinly sliced

1 lime 

2 tbsp salt

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Optional: Splash of fish sauce

Ingredients

10 sprouting broccoli spears (if these are unavailable, broccolini and broccoli rabe work just as well)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 red chilis, thinly sliced

1 lime 

2 tbsp salt

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Optional: Splash of fish sauce

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the broccoli becomes a deep emerald green. Drain the broccoli and then submerge it into an ice bath. Once cooled, drain very well.

2. Meanwhile mix the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red chili and lime in a bowl. Add the cooled broccoli and coat it in the mixture.

3. Using a very hot grill pan, add the broccoli and mixture, charring the broccoli, garlic, red chili and lime, about 2-3 minutes each side.

4. Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve on a white platter.

About the Author

Elizabeth Rust

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