Is it really just one month since many us were bursting at the seams following a yummy Christmasdinner and for many their annual helping of Brussels Sprouts?
These little green vegetables are synonymous with Christmas dinner and have been the butt of many jokes, including the late great Terry Wogan’s annual reminder in September to put the sprouts on so they are ready for Christmas.
I am going to stick my hand in the air and declare that I am in the pro-sprouts corner and have been known to eat them on days other than the 25th December, which is lucky as I always get a good crop from my allotment and it would be a terrible shame to let them go to waste.
Forget Brexit and Marmite, Brussels sprouts are a key issue dividing this nation - many of us love ‘em, but just as many of you hate ‘em and would be happy to see this little brassica off the menu 365 days per year.
Soggy, smelly and tasteless
Are not members of the cabinet, though on second thoughts…
They are in fact words which have often be used to describe the Brussels sprout.
If you were unlucky enough to endure an annual helping of overcooked sprouts, then I can certainly understand your prejudice against them, but in the age of the steamer and a myriad of imaginative recipes it is very each easy to avoid the Ssts.
Speaking of tasteless! Unfortunately the humble sprout also endures a reputation for causing rather odious emissions. [insert your own 'Trump' gag here]
It is not the only food to have this side effect; beans, dairy produce, onions and the brassica family are other examples. The common denominator between them is they are all hard to digest which causes tummy turmoil.
The brassica flatulence is because they contain a complex sugar called Rafinose and our intestines lack the necessary enzymes to break this down. The bacteria in our guts will have a good go, but this process generates an explosive mix of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.
So this creates the wind, but what on earth makes them so smelly? This is due to brassicas have a sulphur containing chemical to help protect their leaves and this is at the root of the smelly flatulence problems which some people experience.
People’s individual ‘fartability’ depends very much on the bacteria community living inside our own unique colony.
If you are a chronic sufferer (or your family and friends are) then eating more vegetables can help your body become more adept at dealing with roughage. There also dietary supplements designed to help break down complex sugars; or you may want to invest in a pair of charcoal pants, reputed to absorb nasty niffs. If all else fails, you can always get a dog.
And now for the positives
I have always found Brussels sprouts the easiest of the brassicas to grow. All gardeners come to know what will and won’t flourish in their region and many of the brassicas, especially broccoli and cabbages don’t seem to thrive in my corner of East Anglia. Therefore sprouts are a great source of greens and in season through the winter.
If you can’t grow them it is worth finding places other than supermarkets to buy them, such as independent farm shops. Try to get the trees and ask them to leave the tops on, as these are delicious steamed, or fried in a little butter.
They are also comparatively cheap and if you do have to get them from supermarkets they can often be found at a really bargain price in the reduced area.
It is a very versatile vegetable and below are a couple of my favourite recipes:
Creamy Brussels sprouts
This is often the recipe I use for my Christmas sprouts and just add in some chestnuts.
- 1 kg/2lb 3¼oz , trimmed
- 8 rashers cured bacon, cut into
- 250ml/8¾fl oz.
- 2 cloves, crushed
- salt and freshly ground
- Cook the Brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes. Drain and refresh in a bowl of ice and water. Drain again when the sprouts have cooled. (I am going to be very honest and say I have yet to bother to refresh them in said bowl of ice)
- Add the bacon and fry over a medium heat until crisp.
- Add the cream and crushed garlic to a small pan and bring to the boil.
- Stir the sprouts into the crisp bacon; then stir in the hot cream.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve straightaway.
Deep-fried sprouts with goat’s cheese and black chilli flakes
You can also shallow fry or roast this dish. Black chillies have been chosen for their sweetness and because they are not overly spic. However, they can be difficult to find and you can use red chilli flakes instead (maybe reduce the quantity)
- 30-35 sprouts,
bases trimmed, outer leaves removed
4 tbsp. soft goat’s cheese
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ tsp grain mustard
- A dash of milk
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- Black chilli flakes, or red chilli flakes
- If your sprouts need washing, pat them with kitchen paper, making sure they are really dry. Then score both ends, from the top to almost halfway down.
- Mash or blitz the goat’s cheese with the olive oil and mustard. Add milk until a thick drizzling consistency is achieved. Season with salt to taste – fried food takes a lot of seasoning, so make sure that the flavours come through really well.
- Deep-fry the Brussels sprouts at about 165-170C/330-340F, until the outside few layers of leaves are going golden brown, but the inside is still green.
- Drain and tip on to kitchen roll and leave, preferably in a warm place, for a minute or two. Season with fine salt.
- While the sprouts are resting, wash and chop the parsley, arrange the sprouts on a big plate, drizzle with the goat’s cheese dressing and sprinkle with chilli flakes and the parsley. Serve while warm.
The best description I have heard of Brussels sprouts is from a friend of mine - she always calls them fairy cabbages and who doesn’t want to eat fairy cabbages more than once a year…