Now, hands up those who eat Brussels Sprouts on any day other than December 25? And keep your hands up if you enjoy them. My hand is in the air twice. It’s probably appropriate that I’m writing this with an election on the way, one which has opinions as polarised over politics as they are over sprouts. Little green nuggets of delight, or, according to my chum Sublime Lesley (no relation to Mrs J), evil balls of green bitterness? (In spite of that don’t hold back, let us know what you really think, opinion, she has contributed an interesting recipe. See below.)
The idea of today is to give a few ideas culled from a variety of sources. Let’s start with the basics. How do you cook them? You can of course boil them. Various disadvantages. You lose the goodness in the cooking water. As I type this I am reminded of a recent report that on Christmas Day the average Brit consumes about 5700 calories, so perhaps nutrition isn’t top of the list. Still, one has standards. The greater problem is that if you do boil them at the last minute, there is a strong possibility that they will overcook and thus deserve the unflattering description quoted above. I would recommend cooking them in advance, steaming rather than boiling, and then refreshing them in a large bowl of iced water until completely cold. This prevents further cooking and ensures they stay al dente and keep their colour. Unless specified, the tips below will start with precooked refreshed sprouts.
Just before serving, heat them for a minute or two in a large frying pan or wok in a lot of butter and finish with a generous topping of black pepper
Lardons and …
Hard fry some bacon lardons. Once they have browned, add the sprouts and cook until they are heated through. You want to ensure that everything is hot but that you’re not overcooking the main ingredient. The words Brussels Sprouts and keeping warm don’t go well together. If you like, you could add any or all of-
Flaked Almonds/Cumin Seeds/Chopped Chestnuts
I wouldn’t recommend this for Christmas Day, as it takes up time and cooker space, both of which are in short supply. Remove the bases from (raw) sprouts and shred them finely. Heat some oil in a wok. Add some ginger and garlic and stir fry, being careful not to burn the garlic. Perhaps add a little chicken stock for the last few minutes. Speaking of stock, let’s turn to-
Sublime Lesley’s Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Garlic and Juniper
Sauté some shallots with garlic and crushed juniper berries until the shallots are soft. (Always use juniper sparingly – just a few will suffice.) Add the (raw) sprouts and plenty of stock, either chicken or veg. Simmer gently until the sprouts are cooked, reduce the liquid and serve at once. If you manage to extract the juniper berries before serving your guests will thank you (or should).
Finally, a few ideas from Escoffier and Larousse Gastronomique.
Au Gratin (two ways)
One recipe uses Béchamel, another cheese only. Take your pick.
Put your cooked sprouts in a gratin dish, season with salt and pepper, add melted butter, Béchamel and/or grated cheese, top with breadcrumbs and brown in the oven. (The obvious flaw with this for Christmas is that oven space is at a total premium.)
Brussels Sprout Purée
Blitz your cooked sprouts in a food processor. Transfer to a pan and heat for a few minutes to reduce the water content. Add one part pommes purées to three parts sprout mixture, pour in some double cream, season with s & p, ensure it’s piping hot and serve.
Many thanks to Lesley Tucker, chef extraordinaire, for her recipe. Follow her on Instagram at sublimelesley or on Twitter at @sublimelesey1