Brussel Sprouts. The quintessential Christmas vegetable that divides tables across the nation. Related to the cabbage, many of us are haunted by over-boiled, mushy green balls of bitterness when it comes to thinking of the little sprout. However, I am here today to change your mind and give the little guys another chance when it comes to voting for which greens grace our plates next to the turkey and pigs-in-blankets this December.
This week, I had a chestnut and sprout pizza - yes, with gorgonzola too - that blew my mind. Now, I love a good sprout, shredded and fried, I jump on the chance to fill my boots every winter and can't wait for the supermarkets to start stocking them!
I know, though, that this is a quite extreme opinion, and won't be suggesting anything quite so crazy in today's recipes. Instead, we're looking at alternatives to boiling them to death with a cross in their base!
To start with, we're looking at a slight deviation from the norm, with Nigella's Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts, Panchetta and Parsley. She says not to panic if you can’t get your hands on pancetta, it’s fine to use bacon, and to consider the copious amounts of parsley as another vegetable on the dish rather than a garnish.
1 kilogram brussels sprouts
250 grams pancetta (rind removed, cut into 1 cm cubes)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
30 grams butter
250 grams vacuum-packed chestnuts
60 millilitres marsala
1 large bunch of fresh parsley (chopped)
Trim the bottoms off each of the sprouts, cutting a cross into each as you go, or at least a slash. Then tip them into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until tender but still retaining a bit of bite, about 5 minutes or so depending on size.
Meanwhile, in a pan large enough to take everything later (or just drain the sprouts and use their pan, once you’ve drained them), cook the pancetta cubes in the oil, with the rind for more salty fat rendering, until they’re bronzed and crisp, but not cooked to the point of having dried out.
Add the butter and the chestnuts and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, press on the chestnuts to break them up a little. When they’re warmed through, turn the heat up and throw in the Marsala, letting it bubble away, fusing with the pancetta fat and chestnutty butter to form a glorious savoury syrup. Add the drained sprouts and turn well, sprinkling in half the parsley as you do so. Give a good grinding of pepper; you shouldn’t need salt, given the pancetta, but obviously taste to see. Decant to a warmed serving plate and sprinkle over the remaining chopped parsley.
For our next recipe, we have a delicious gratin from Jamie Oliver. A gloriously warming and rich dish, topped with toasty breadcrumbs and chestnuts for added crunch, this creamy, garlicky gratin is pure comfort-food joy.
20g unsalted butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
2 large potatoes, scrubbed, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cups (500ml) low-fat milk
100ml double cream
200g creme fraiche
600g brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or shredded using a food processor
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (80g) finely grated parmesan
50g stale wholegrain bread
50g vacuum-packed chestnuts (from delis or gourmet food shops) or macadamias, finely chopped
3 tsp olive oil
Green salad, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Melt the butter in a 30cm x 20cm flameproof baking dish over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and half the thyme, and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the sliced potato and stir well, then pour over the milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly to release the starch from the potato slices, for 3 minutes or until the potato is heated through.
Remove from the heat and stir through the cream and creme fraiche, then fold through the brussels sprouts. Add the lemon zest and half the parmesan. Season, and stir gently to combine, before grating over the remaining 1/2 cup (40g) parmesan.
Place the bread in a food processor and pulse to coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the chestnuts, oil and remaining thyme, and stir well to combine. Sprinkle the chestnut crumb over the top of the vegetable mixture.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the top is bubbling and golden.
Remove the gratin from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then serve with a crisp green salad on the side.
And finally, now I've broken you in slowly to the world of sprouts, it's time to get slightly more adventurous and really showcase the flavour by searing them in a scorching pan. This sizzling sprout recipe from BBC Good Food will add a delicious twist to your Christmas spread with pan-fried sprouts and juicy pomegranate seeds, drizzled with pomegranate molasses.
3 tbsp olive oil
500g Brussel Sprouts, halved
50g pistachios, roughly chopped
100g pomegranate seeds
pomegranate molasses, to drizzle (optional)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Put the sprouts in the pan, cut-side down, and leave them to fry for 10-15 mins, tossing occasionally. If they’re just lightly brown, carry on cooking for a further 5 mins until blistered.
Scatter over the pistachios and stir-fry until toasted. Remove from the heat and stir through the pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and tip into a serving dish. Drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses, if you like.
So there you have it, sprouts three ways and not a pizza in sight. However, if you fancy getting even more experimental, I reccommend a Tarte Tatin, Soup or Stir Fry! Tell me, are you joining me in celebrating the humble sprout this year, or are you giving it a wide berth?
About the author: Laura Cutress
Laura is the owner and director of Anchor & Dash, brand development and marketing agency. She believes that everyone deserves an online presence which makes them feel proud. Her mission statement is simple: building business through creative, authentic and inspiring digital marketing. If you would like to chat more about growing your brand, talk to her over at www.anchoranddash.com , on Facebook, or her personal favourite, Instagram.