I wanted to share some favourite brussel sprout recipes to help liven up this traditional Christmas side dish vegetable. This is a love-hate thing and a controversial vegetable. Some people really do hate them. I certainly used to but cooking them well makes such a difference. They are often cooked very badly, by which I mean basically cooked for too long.
Traditional Brussels sprout recipes tended to suggest boiling until soft and squidqy. I even know quite a few people who like them like that. But when cooked for too long, they become mushy and - well basically quite smelly. Like many other brassica vegetables (cabbage is another guilty vegetable) they eventually emit an unpleasant sulphurous odour which also adds a bitter undertone when eaten. But there is no need to cook them for so long. They are delicious when firm and can even be eaten raw in a salad.
Choose sprouts with bright green leaves. As they lose their freshness, the outer leaves start to yellow so try to avoid vegetables with yellow outer leaves. Smaller sprouts are more fiddly to prepare but do have the best flavour so these are the ones I go for. Whatever size you choose, I think it's best to use sprouts that are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly.
Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any outer leaves that are yellow. If they are quite large, you can half them. Wash them well. Traditionally, a cross is often cut at the base of each sprout to ensure even cooking. My grandmother did this religiously but, I have to admit I don't bother and don't find that I have any problems.
Place the brussel sprouts in a pot. Just barely cover them in boiling water and cook for about 4-6 minutes. They are also very good steamed. I do this using a simple in-pot steamer. It takes about 6 minutes but will vary depending on their size. I love them this way just sprinkled with a little sea salt and black pepper but for a special meal, here are a few more interesting brussel sprout recipes. Whichever way you cook them, Brussels sprouts are best served as soon as they are cooked. They cool fast and their texture seems to droop quickly too.
My favourite of all brussel sprout recipes, for this dish I like to pan-fry the sprouts until just tender, then toss them with buttery, crunchy, golden sliced almonds. Cooking them quickly in a pan with olive oil transforms them to a vibrant green. The flavour is sweet but slightly charred with a tender but still crisp texture.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
2/3 cup/50g flaked or slivered almonds
Prepare the sprouts as normal and cut them in half. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the sprouts and stir fry for two minutes until they take on a deep green colour.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of water, some salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and cook the brussel sprouts for a another 3 minutes.
In a separate pan, melt the butter and gently cook the almonds until they start to become golden. Pour the almond mix over the brussel sprouts and gently stir through. Divine!
This is very simple but it makes a special and a luxurious Christmas accompaniment.
To make this, follow the basic instructions for cooking brussel sprouts. When the vegetables are cooked, drain and return to the pan. Immediately stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream, some grated nutmeg and seasoning. Stir just for 30 seconds or so.
If we are talking brussel sprout recipes, I had to include roasting. I love sprouts cooked this way. They develop a sweet richness and a delicious browned crust on some of the leaves. You can make these with just a little olive oil and salt but I like a sprinkling of crushed garlic and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice too.
I do find that, unlike many other vegetables which tend to be very forgiving if you stick them in the oven and forget about them, brussels sprouts need a watchful eye. It's as easy to overcook them in the oven as in a pot and over-roasting them will result in rubbery, charred vegetables. Yes, I do speak from disastrous experience.500g/1 pound of brussel sprouts
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of crushed garlic (not essential)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Prepare the brussels sprouts as described above and cut each one in half. Toss them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients. Transfer to a baking pan and roast at 400F/200C for about 20 minutes. Shake the pan a couple of times during the cooking. This will prevent them from becoming too crispy.