Sprouting Flavour

17th December 2010

Forget the X-factor… Nothing divides the nation more than the taste of Brussels Sprouts.

So many people were put off for life by soggy, overcooked sprouts served up during childhood, usually with an accompanying “Eat your greens, they’re good for you”. But if the memory of that haunts you, and you haven’t eaten them in a while, maybe it’s time to give sprouts another chance. Modern varieties are less bitter, cooking techniques have improved substantially, and, of course, they are good for you.

They’re a rich source of Vitamin C and folic acid, with one 80g serving of cooked sprouts providing 80% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C; that’s four times the amount of vitamin C than in an orange, and 44% of your RDA of folic acid.

Often associated with Christmas, because they were traditionally available throughout the cold winter months, sprouts are now in the shops almost year-round, thanks to modern growing techniques and varieties. Nowadays you can buy them loose, in nets or on the stalk, or even fully prepared for convenience. Buying them on the stalk will keep them fresher for longer – just stand the stalk in water to keep them really fresh, and pick what you need when you need it. Loose or bagged sprouts should be stored in the fridge.

The most important thing to remember is not to cook them for too long – steaming or boiling for seven to eight minutes (and no more) should be ample. It’s the overcooking that makes sprouts release the bitter-tasting compounds and sulphur-like smell that people find off-putting.

You can also add shredded sprouts to stir fries, or steam them for a minute, then toss in butter and sauté until they’re cooked. Sprouts love bacon, chestnuts, lemon, almonds, nutmeg, cream, garlic – all wonderful seasonal flavours that will beautifully enhance this delicious little vegetable.

First, a great-tasting dish to accompany your Christmas meal, followed by three recipes where sprouts really come into their own. Enjoy!

Creamed Brussels Sprouts With Nutmeg

Serves 4
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

450g fresh sprouts, with the outer leaves and ends of stalks removed
30g butter
100ml double cream
1tsp grated nutmeg
Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Black pepper

Method:

1. In a pan of boiling water simmer the sprouts for 8-10 mins until just done. Drain then tip into a food processor.

2. Add the butter, cream, nutmeg and ¾ of the parsley and season to taste. Whizz till semi smooth so it still has some texture.

3. Check the seasoning, then spoon into a warm serving dish and
scatter with the remaining parsley and a good grind of black pepper.

Notes:

You can also add some diced crisp bacon to this recipe if you like –
and if there’s any of this left over, it’s perfect for Bubble and Squeak
the following day.

Chopin Potato & Brussels Sprout Crush

Serves 4
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

650g Chopin potatoes chopped into quarters
6 rashers back bacon finely diced
250g Brussels sprouts, shredded
Oil for frying
Ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place the potatoes on a large pan of water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 8-10 minutes or until tender.

2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a frying pan with a dash of oil till crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Then tip the shredded sprouts into the same pan and stir until wilted and tender.

3. Once the potatoes are done, drain and roughly crush them with a potato masher or a fork. Tip in the bacon and potato into the frying pan with the sprouts and stir to combine over a low heat, seasoning with black pepper and making sure you incorporate any meaty bits from the bottom of the pan.

Brussels Sprout & Potato Croquettes

Serves 4
Preparation: 10 minutes + chilling
Cooking: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

200g Brussels sprouts trimmed & sliced • 500g Chopin potatoes cooked & crushed • 1 egg, beaten • 50g plain flour • 100g finely ground breadcrumbs seasoned • 300ml vegetable oil • 200g tin chopped tomatoes • Small bunch of coriander chopped • 1tsp Worcester sauce • 1 shallot finely sliced

Method:

1. Drop the sprouts into boiling water and blanch them for 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh with cold water. Combine with the potato, mashing them together with a fork. Season well and form the mixture into 12 croquettes.

2. Place the egg in a bowl, the flour on a plate and the breadcrumbs on a second plate. Dip each croquette into the flour first, to coat, then the egg and lastly the breadcrumbs. Make sure each is fully covered. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours

3. To make the dip combine the tomatoes, coriander, Worcester sauce and shallot, season and set aside.

4. Pour the oil into a large, deep frying pan, to a depth of about 4cm, and place over a medium-high heat. Fry the croquettes until golden all over for a total of 5 minutes – you may need to do this in 2 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with the dip.

Stir-fried Sprouts with Chicken, Lemon & Chilli

Serves 2
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

2tsp sesame oil • 2 chicken breasts sliced into thin strips • 4 shallots thinly sliced • 250g Brussels sprouts shredded • 1 clove garlic finely diced • ½tsp chilli flakes (more if you like it hot…) • Zest of 1 lemon • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Method:

1. In a wok or large frying pan heat the oil till very hot, then throw in the chicken strips, stir fry for 1-2 minutes until brown on all sides.

2. Add the shallots, sprouts, garlic and chilli to the pan and continue to stir fry for 3-5 minutes until the sprouts are tender.

3. Stir through the lemon zest and soy sauce and serve.

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