Shaved Brussels sprout salad with toasted walnuts and Manchego cheese; the sprouts are raw, the walnuts are toasted and the cheese is mashed into a dressing. Feed it to a sworn Brussels hater and see what happens.
Brussels sprouts, a bit like Brussels the city, are universally disliked. The smell, the mushy texture, the smell; and they stink. The sad seasonal stalwart anywhere north of Switzerland, it looks pretty miserable even if brandished on the stalk it grows on; possibly handy to use as a weapon but not aesthetically pleasing.
Did I mention the smell? I wasn’t big on vegetables in general as a child but the sight of the invariably overcooked, usually unseasoned bar oddly sprinkled breadcrumbs, miserable miniature cabbages used to give me shivers. Why do people even eat these? I used to wonder. Proper, full sized cabbage doesn’t smell and it’s tasty so why not stick to that? Give the horrid sprouts to donkeys, if they’ll have them.
The sprouts have enjoyed a revival at some point in the noughties, when Nigella cooked them with bacon, but then what doesn’t taste good with bacon? I’ll eat them these days if I must but not through choice.
But then quite a few vegetables benefit from being eaten raw – like fennel, like runner beans. The sprouts must be heavily seasoned though and smothered with cheese – another thing that makes everything taste good. Shave them thinly in a food processor or with a mandolin and toss them with the dressing ingredients, using your hands which as everybody knows is the secret to a great salad: it has to be hand rubbed.
On the choice of cheese, I found Manchego to work the best even though the original recipe by Sam Sifton of NY Times Cooking says Pecorino. Pecorino was too hard in my view, it would have to be grated and the charm of this salad is partly in the varied texture of the cheese – lumpy rather than uniformly grated. If you get hold of really soft Pecorino, Bob’s your uncle, otherwise go for Manchego.