Brussels Sprouts

Hi there. Brussels sprouts are incredible little gems of green and white (and in some cases purple).  
Although it is suggested that some people can get a bitter flavour from sprouts (caused by a chemical called PTC), I do not have this sensation and love brussels sprouts. However, even for the hardest of sprout lovers a slimy over boiled sprout can still taste foul, with the texture of tripe (something that I am not particularly partial to!). So, I recommend trying the recipes below for a surefire way to get the best flavour out of your sprouts without compromising on texture.

I actually only found out the other day that the reason that you sometimes see a cross cut into the bottom of the sprout is because it allows the demons out.  I imagine some poor medieval person eating sprouts as there was nothing else, hating every mouthful of bitter tasting leaf thinking the flavour was caused by demons.  An interesting idea.

In the Garden

Sow the seed in rows, 75cm between each row, at about half an inch deep in mid March.  Cover the seed with a fleece until the risk of frost has passed. You need to thin periodically throughout growing, so initially thin to about 8cm between each plant.

As the plants get bigger continue to thin, but remember you can transplant the bigger plants to other areas of the bed.  You want to finish with 60cm between each plant and 75cm between rows, when the plant gets to between 10 and 15cm with 7 true leaves.

I would always net brussels sprouts, they are a brassica and get attacked by similar things to cabbages and broccoli.  Caterpillars, cabbage root fly and birds all cause significant damage to the plants.

In the Kitchen

Brussels sprouts are a classic Christmas side, but there is a lot more you can do with them, especially as you may have hundreds of them left over after the holiday period. There is a recipe for a blue cheese and brassica soup here, which is delicious, and below there are three other recipes to fill your days with warming Brussels sprouts. When cooking with sprouts, aim that they are all roughly the same size in each recipe so that they cook evenly.

Brussels Sprouts in a Garlic Sauce with Bacon and Parmesan

A lovely creamy sauce really makes these sprouts stand out.  Certainly a must for any lover of parmesan as the flavours contrast beautifully.

Ingredients

  • 1kg of Brussels sprouts
  • 300g grated parmesan
  • 3 rashers of bacon
  • Teaspoon of pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Trim all of the Brussels sprouts and slice in half.
  2. Chop the bacon into small lardons and fry gently in a heavy based, large frying pan (that can also go in the oven). Once brown take the bacon out and add the rapeseed oil.
  3. Crush the garlic cloves and dice finely and place in the olive oil.  Fry gently for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the Brussels sprouts in the garlic and oil and coat them in the oil and minced garlic.  Place the pan in the oven and roast at 200°C for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the bacon to the pan and mix together and then roast for another 5 minutes.
  6. Grate the parmesan cheese and pour over the top of the whole pan.  Bake in the oven for another 3 minutes and allow the top of the parmesan to brown slightly.

Toasted sprouts with cranberries and chestnuts

A lovely Christmasy way to use your sprouts which will make you smile with its taste and how simple it is.

Ingredients

  • 500g Brussels sprouts
  • 200g chestnuts (shelled and prepared)
  • 10ml rapeseed oil
  • A handful of cranberries
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Method

  1. If you have bought chestnuts in their shell this will take a little longer, but you will have the option of roasting your own chestnuts, which gives an incredible smell and Christmasy feeling. For this process spread out your chestnuts on an oven tray and place in the oven for about 30 minutes at 225°C.  Or, simply buy a pack of ready to eat chestnuts.
  2. Prepare your sprouts.  Remove any sprout leaves that are turning brown and cut off any of the stem on the bottom.
  3. Start by boiling the sprouts in water for 5 minutes, then plunge into ice water.
  4. Dry off the sprouts with kitchen roll and then toss the sprouts with the salt and black pepper and place on a baking tray under a hot grill for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place the cranberries in a dish and gently press so that the skins burst.  Dust with white sugar. And let them sweeten for 10 minutes.
  6. Chop your chestnuts roughly and then mix together the cranberries, sprouts and chestnuts.

Sous Vide Brussel Sprouts and Tops in a Miso Paste

So, remember above where I said you don’t want to eat slimy Brussels sprouts, well I stand by that.  However, if you were going to think of a way that they could become slimy, this would be up there.  However, this works like a charm.

I dare you to try making this one.  It is well worth the wait, and the beautiful texture is to die for, not slimy at all.

You need a water bath for this.  Now, I don’t have a sous vide machine, and maintaining a constant low temperature is difficult (read impossible) in a pan on a hob.  So instead I used a slow cooker.  This allows a relatively stable temperature.  It allows you to keep a lower temperature as well.  You want to get it at about 70°.

I have edited the recipe by Chantelle Nicholson found here.  I wanted to include this recipe because it genuinely is one of my favourite ways to cook Brussels sprouts.

Ingredients

  • 20 Brussels sprouts
  • 1kg sprout tops
  • 50ml rapeseed oil
  • 25g miso paste
  • 16 cashew nuts
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Method

  1. Fill two vacuum bags with rapeseed oil and the miso paste.  Add the black pepper and salt. Slice the Brussels sprouts in half and place in one of the bags.  Slice the sprout tops and discard the tough stem.  Place these into the other bag. Seal the bags.
  2. Place the sprout bag into the water bath and leave it for 45 minutes. While this is cooking chop the cashew nuts.
  3. Place the sprout tops bag into the water bath and leave both bags in the water for another 20 minutes.
  4. Once the time is up take out both bags and empty the sprouts and tops out onto your serving plate and pour the cooking liquid over the top.
  5. Top with the cashews and enjoy.

So, there you have a lovely three recipes for Brussels sprouts.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Enjoy!