roast broccoli with prawns

i think i like the anticipation of spring as much as i like the actual spring itself. if not more. april and may are probably my favourites, though june still has the pale green lucidity of early summer. by july, i know the end is near despite the reckless sunshine. by august, i've already smelt the end of summer in the parched grass and holiday photos, and started dreading september and the rains.

but as much as spring is my favourite time of the year, it’s also when i am at my maddest. i don’t mean hysterical mad. it’s more of a feeling of unease, or restlessness. nostalgia for something undefined. i don’t really know what it is, or what causes it. it feels as natural to me as the changing of seasons, following its innate rhythm that i almost have nothing to do with. and strangely, it’s not some intellectual or emotional exercise of taking stock of my life which is what you’d expect at the start of a new season. that’s starting to happen anyway, as a sobering byproduct of getting older. instead, it’s just an inchoate feeling, like an itch that needs scratching once a year. i assume it has something to do with the changing of seasons. it happens in the six or eight weeks where things are on the cusp and you notice the change – the light getting stronger or weaker, the leaves coming through or falling. it’s nothing like as strong in the autumn though there is no doubt that autumns make me maudlin too.

i think i had it before i left home. mind you, i then probably thought it all very poetic to get moody as the days got warmer. i’d read too many books and fancied myself a future ts eliott, or at least antun branko simic. you'd have thought it would get worse after the war (AW, like BC and AD. my parents still had to ask ‘which war’, ‘the other one’ usually being WWII and ‘this one’ being the 90’s one) but i am not sure it did.

so, cycling through barnsbury through a storm of pink and white blossom, behind kids on stolen bikes leaving the smell of skunk in their wake, i feel the way i feel every march: like i have a hayfever of the soul.

i should say something about this recipe, i guess. when people marvel at how i can be bothered to cook when rich is away travelling, little do they know that this is the kind of food i eat. you just bung it all in the oven and what comes out is so amazingly tasty that i have thought more than once how being a banking widow isn't all that bad.

for one greedy person or two normals

1 head of broccoli, sliced into thick wedges of just broken up into smallish florets
1 red pepper, cut into 4 - optional and i don't normally use it
around 1/4 cup or 4 tbs of olive oil
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or more if you like
a good pinch of salt (think tv chefs, not home)
loads of ground black pepper
250g fresh or frozen prawns
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
a squeeze of lemon
a good pinch of sumac

preheat the oven to 220C. grind cumin, coriander and chilli in a pestle and mortar, add the salt and pepper, and mix with about half of the oil. put the broccoli in a roasting tin and cover with this mixture, rubbing it in with your hands. you're aiming to cover the florets or bits of broccoli as much as you can.

spread the broccoli on a roasting try and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes. check after this time - it should be nearly ready, soft in the middle and getting slightly crunchy around the edges. if it's not, leave it in for a bit longer.

in the meantime, put the prawns in a bowl and mix with olive oil and lemon zest. when the broccoli is almost done, take it out of the oven and add the prawns. cook for another 5 minutes or until the prawns are done.

once out of the oven, squeeze some lemon juice over it and eat while still really hot. i like to cover mine with sumac - for some reason, the acidic, sharp taste goes really well with the whole thing.


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