brussels sprouts two ways
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This is a recipe for people who don’t like Brussels sprouts which is, let’s face it, probably three quarters of the population.
Sprouts smell. They make YOU smell. They give you wind. Or indigestion. And still, inexplicably, they ride out onto tables every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I suspect it’s the inner frugality that makes us persevere with the sprout: they are abundant, they are cheap, easy to grow and they are a vegetable. Plus they are a token anti-Brexit gesture (we choose Brussels!).
A bit like in the case of courgette, chefs, cooks and normal (heh!) people have been trying to come up with genius ideas to turn meh into yummy. Bacon. Chestnuts. Cheese. Garlic. Pickled onions and breadcrumbs. Gravy. Why, I wonder, can’t we just give up and say ‘sorry, sprouts – it’s not you, it’s me’ and quite simply stop trying in vain to make them palatable?
Since, glancing through the seasonal recipes in magazines and weekend supplements, the answer is clearly ‘NO’, here’s my offering. It’s frugality central because it uses also the Brussels tops off those funny sticks we like the look of in the market and then curse, heaving them home. The tops are usually discarded, wrongly, as they actually have lighter flavour.
I blanch them and toss them with toasted almonds – that’s all. Nice – you may even imagine it’s savoy cabbage. The sprouts themselves needn’t be halved as it makes for varied textures if some are smaller and some larger – that’s why I recommend lugging the sprout stick back home; little ones and big ones grow on it together.
They need to be salted and peppered about twice as much as an amount you think sensible. They need LOTS of olive oil and they roast until the outsides are charred but not burnt; crisp but not tough; papery but flavoursome. Gherkin gives them a bit of interest, sharpness and sweet acidity (oh how I love gherkins) and it was my last minute flash of genius while concocting this dish. I’m so pleased about it I daren’t google how common an idea it is.
And in the end you can always just eat the charred skins and pretend they are crisps.
brussels sprouts two waysServings: 4Time: about an hour
- 1 fresh sprout stick with top on (or 600-700g sprouts)
- salt and black pepper
- 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 2 tbsp. almond flakes
- 2 small gherkins, diced finely
- a lemon half, to serve
Cut the sprouts off the stick, top and trim them. Remove the top and reserve.
If you’re using loose sprouts, trim them and reserve a couple of handfuls of outer green, unblemished leaves to use instead of the tops.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Season the sprouts very liberally with salt and pepper, drizzle with most of the olive oil leaving a couple of tablespoons. Toss the sprouts in the seasoning to coat them evenly. Tip them onto a roasting tray big enough to fit them in one layer.
Roast for 45 minutes, shaking the tray once or twice to toss and turn them. They should be more or less evenly charred, with the outside leaves browned and crisp.
While the sprouts are roasting, prepare the tops/outer leaves: rinse them and chop roughly. Blanch them in a pan of boiling, salty water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Return the pan to the hob, medium heat. Add the almond flakes and toast in the dry pan until golden. Add the remaining olive oil and turn up the heat. Drop the sprout leaves into the pan, toss with the almonds and season with salt and pepper. Stir over medium-high heat until the liquid evaporates and the leaves are thoroughly heated up, about 3-4 minutes.
Serve the roasted sprouts sprinkled with the chopped gherkins and the tops with a squeeze of lemon.