Sprouts are undergoing a quiet renaissance, so it’s time to brush up on your Brussels and get it right this Christmas
Do you always find yourself creating water-logged, bitter balls of unpleasantness? Brussels can be a wonderful side dish if given the right treatment – and not just at Christmas and New Year, although they’re a festive staple.
For the best possible flavour and texture, buy fresh. The sprouts season in this country is from October to March. They should be very firm and green. Curled or unfurled outer leaves do occur on some varieties, but avoid sprouts whose outer leaves are yellowing at the edges. Even if you remove the outer yellow leaves, these are a sign that they’re past their best. Try to select sprouts that are of a similar size – the smaller the better as they’re more tender and cook more quickly.
Sprouts need to be kept really cold, so keep them in a loosely sealed plastic bag in the fridge until you need them. Ideally, use them within a few days of purchase. They also stay fresher for longer if you can keep them attached to their central stalk. If the stalk is too large to store in the fridge, keep it outside.
The only preparation needed is to cut the stalks right back to the level of the leaves so you have little Brussels balls.
Some people swear by cutting a cross in the bottom of each sprout, which they believe allows them to cook all through – but it’s not necessary, and you’ll save time if you don’t.
As with all vegetables wash the trimmed sprouts in clean water prior to cooking.
The simplest way of cooking Brussels is to steam them for 5-7 minutes. They should yield when you pierce them with a sharp knife, but still retain some ‘bite’. They should also remain vibrantly green: if they’ve lost colour, they’re probably overcooked.
You can also par-boil them for a few minutes, then roast them in oil in a hot oven for a further 15. This releases their sweetness!
Brussels are delicious tossed in a knob of butter and sprinkled with a little seasoning. This is the simplest way to serve them as a side dish.
Get a little bit fancy
Shredded spouts are a bit of a thing these days. Try adding raw (but washed), finely shredded or grated Brussels to a green salad for extra flavour that’s a little like kale. Alternatively slice sprouts into shreds, then lightly pan-fry with onions and garlic – or with soy sauce and a little fresh red chilli.
Or try these for more flavour spins:
Just mix in shredded sprouts to this classic cauliflower cheese recipe.