I admit I wasn’t a fan when I was younger. I was part of the “clean your plate” generation and remember the challenge of finding a place to hide sprouts at Christmas dinner. Even my dog, who would normally eat anything, couldn’t be counted on to clean up a “dropped” sprout.
I think part of the problem was that sprouts were a bit of an afterthought. My Mum spent loads of time on the turkey, stuffing and gravy but the sprouts? Why bother. They were a vegetable tick box.
If you didn’t like them, who cared. You weren’t supposed to like them. It would be another 364 days before you had to eat another one, anyway. Besides, without sprouts, the plate was a sea of beige. They were kind of like a parsley garnish.
But now I love them. Not love as in I want to eat them everyday kind of love, mind you but still love. What I’ve come to realise is that sprouts are best when, a) you don’t cook them too long and, b) when you pair them with other ingredients to add different flavours and textures.
Best of all, you can prep Brussels sprouts early in the day and finish off the last bits very quickly. This is key when the turkey is growing cold and the gravy is congealing. I’ve done Brussels sprouts two ways here. I blanche them, then half get tossed with balsamic vinegar-soaked dried cherries and chopped hazelnuts while the other half are served with nduja (a spicy spreadable salumi from Italy) and pine nuts. It gives everyone a choice plus it makes you look like you’re Martha Stewart.
A note on ingredients. I’ve splurged on an apple balsamic vinegar from Liberty Fields in Dorset. It’s got a lovely, zesty apple flavour that goes really nicely with the sprouts, nuts and dried cherries. Well worth it but you could always use a standard balsamic or wine vinegar too. You can find nduja at some grocery stores, online and at many Italian delis.
Brussels sprouts served two ways
If you can find a whole stalk of sprouts do – you can include the lovely sprout tops in dish. This recipe is based on about 60-75g of sprouts per person which equals around 4-6 sprouts – plenty when served as one of several side dishes.
Serves 6-81 whole stalk of Brussels sprouts plus the tops, yielding about 500g of sprouts 2 tbsp olive oilFor the Sprouts with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts
40g dried cherries25g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped1 tbsp balsamic vinegarSea salt
For the Sprouts with Nduja & Pine Nuts
50g nduja, removed from the casing20g pine nuts, toastedHalve the Brussels sprouts leaving very small ones whole. Shred the Brussels sprout tops (if using), discarding any rough outer leaves and removing the tough central rib. Wash and dry in a salad spinner and set aside.
Pour a tablespoon or two of very hot water over the cherries to plump them up. Set aside for a few minutes. Drain off the water and add the balsamic vinegar and stir to coat.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Salt liberally. Add the Brussels sprouts (excluding the shredded tops) and cook until just tender, about four minutes. Drain and refresh with very cold water. Take a large sauté pan and heat up two tablespoons of olive oil. Toss in the shredded sprout tops (if using) and cook for a minute or two until they begin to wilt. Add the blanched Brussel sprouts and cook for another minute or two.
Place half of the mixture into a serving bowl. Add the cherries and hazelnuts and give a stir with a sprinkle of sea salt. Add the nduja to the sauté pan and mix in with the remaining sprouts. Toss in the pine nuts and when the nduja has melted onto the sprouts, place into a second serving bowl.