Brussels sprouts are amongst the few veg that create a strong love them or loathe them divide. But, if you choose small firm sprouts with fresh green outer leaves and you cook them lightly, until just tender, they have a lovely sweet and nutty flavour. Sprouts are said to have the best flavour if picked after the first frosts.
If cooking large sprouts it’s best to cut them in half to avoid the outside becoming overcooked and the centre underdone. Alternatively, they can be shredded and stir-fried with a herb or citrus butter for just a minute or two just to soften them but retain a slight crispness and keep their bright green colour.
Brussels sprouts are a traditional veg on the Christmas table and go really well with all roast meats particularly turkey and chicken. Lightly cook and toss them with cooked chestnuts and some crispy bacon pieces for a festive touch.
To ensure even cooking, cut a small cross in the stalk end of each sprout. This allows the boiling water or steam to help cook the centre at the same time as the outer leaves. Small sprouts will only take about 5 mins. Overcooked sprouts will lose their colour, have a mushy texture, strong smell and slightly bitter taste so it really is worth not letting them overcook.
Around Christmas time you’ll see sprouts for sale on the stalk. Keeping them on the stalk is supposed to keep them fresher for longer, but once the stalk is pulled from the ground they will start to deteriorate so the best thing is to buy them little and often.
Trim a thin slice off the stalk end of each sprout and remove 2 or 3 outer leaves. Cut a cross in the stalk end just deep enough to cut the surface.
Place in a saucepan, cover with boiling water from the kettle, add a pinch of salt, cover and cook for 5 mins until just tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Alternatively, place the sprouts in a steamer over a pan of boiling water and steam for 5 mins.
Drain thoroughly, tip into a serving dish and top with a knob of butter and freshly ground black pepper.
Sprouts with Chestnuts and Bacon
Cook the sprouts as above. At the same time fry 75g lardons or chopped streaky bacon in a large frying pan until crisp. Tip the cooked sprouts into the frying pan with the bacon and the bacon fat and add 200g cooked peeled sprouts, a knob of butter and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Heat until the sprouts and chestnuts are coated in the melted butter and bacon fat and the chestnuts are hot.
Bubble & Squeak
The perfect way to use up leftover cooked sprouts, mashed potato and any other leftover cooked veg such as carrots, cabbage and leeks. As a rough guide use equal quantities of potato and veg and mash together until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a large knob of duck fat or 2tbsp sunflower oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Shape into individual rounds or press all the mixture into the pan and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 mins until golden and crisp underneath. Turn the bubble and squeak over and cook for a further 3-4 mins until golden. Serve topped with a fried egg and crispy bacon or serve with cold meats and pickles.
Stir-fried Sprouts with Orange and Lime
Shred 500g raw sprouts. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a wok or large frying and cook 1 chopped shallot for 2 mins to soften. Add the sprouts and stir-fry over a high for 1 min. Add the finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange and the juice of 1 lime. Stir-fry for 1 min until the sprouts have just softened. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add a knob of butter.
Raw Sprout Slaw
Shred 400g raw sprouts and place in a bowl with 2 chopped celery sticks, 1 peeled and chopped eating apple, 1 coarsely grated carrot, 2 chopped spring onions and 25g chopped pecan nuts. Add 2tbsp mayonnaise and stir well to mix. Serve with cold meats, burgers, sausages or ribs.