A sprout is not just for Christmas

Jenny Chandler Sprouts

We bought our Christmas sprouts on the stalk yesterday, ensuring optimum freshness for our big feast tomorrow. The guinea pigs are already munching on some of the sweet leaves from the sprout top and we’ll have the rest for lunch.

I’ve adored sprouts for as long as I can remember, even as a toddler- along with Stilton cheese. I’d always felt quite proud about my developed palate; early signs of a true food lover, I thought. I recently discovered that a love of bitter, strong flavours as a child could betray the fact that I’m short on taste buds; “super-tasters” (those people with the highest concentrations of taste buds) apparently find most brassicas overpoweringly bitter. So, do I miss out on all sorts of delicate nuances as I eat every day? That may be, but at least it allows me to revel in the delicious possibilities of the Brussel sprout.

It seems tragic that most people only eat their sprouts once a year when there are so many tasty possibilities- so here are my …..

5 favourite ways with sprouts

Simply steamed until JUST cooked through and then tossed in a bit of butter before serving. If you’re using small sprouts there’s no need to cut those little crosses in the bottom; if using large sprouts I cut them in half. Any bacon you might have put over a roasting bird can be chopped or broken up and thrown in too

Roasted sprouts are a revelation. Turn your oven up really high  (200°c +). Toss whole sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast for about 10 minutes (more if they’re large ones) or until the outer leaves are a bit charred and the centres are tender.

Stir fried sprouts with orange and chestnuts are heaven with a roast. Slice the sprouts as finely as possible. Take a wok or large frying pan and begin by frying a diced onion in olive oil until soft. Throw in a finely sliced clove of garlic and your sprouts and toss around over a high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Now add about 1/2 tsp of orange zest and a handful of cooked chestnuts. Give everything a good stir before adding the juice of the orange and seasoning with plenty of salt and pepper.
A few lardons fried up with the onion at the beginning of the dish are fantastic here too.

Brussel sprout Bubble and Squeak is the  absolute best- using any left overs from the sprout dishes above or eve shredding some sprouts for the purpose. Make sure that having mixed them in with your potatoes you fry the mixture with plenty of oil and allow it to catch and caramelise on the bottom of your frying ban. The charred, crunchy bits are the key to a sublime dish, along with plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and a poached egg.

– My new favourite, sprout salad, discovered at a fabulous pop-up in Bristol only last week. If you happen to be a local then make sure that you head down to  Bar Buvette (great write up by Fiona Beckett) on Baldwin Street as this bar may only be around for a few weeks and you REALLY DON”T WANT TO MISS IT!
But back to my sprouts – Peter Taylor (formerly of The Riverstation and Bell’s Diner) was serving very simple cheeses, charcuterie, fab’ cheese toasties  and then this very simple (but incredibly delicious salad) when we went down to sample his wines last week. I don’t think I’d ever eaten raw sprouts before….strange when I love all sorts of variations on coleslaw.
(Peter pointed out that you could always ponce things up and go a bit Italian by calling it a Cavolini or Cavoletti salad).


Sprout, Pecorino and Hazelnut Salad 
(as starter or side dish for 4)

400 g sprouts, peeled and shredded
100 g pecorino or parmesan, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A good handful of hazelnuts
salt and black pepper

Toss everything together and season to taste. Great eaten on its own or very delicious with a crispy jacket potato and a bit of cold ham too.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS & I do hope you enjoy your sprouts.




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