Brussel sprouts have always been a pretty divisive festive food, it seems. I read recently that a traditional Christmas dinner is going out of fashion, and Brussel sprouts seem to be leading the way in terms of what people have abandoned.
And I get it, they have a particular taste, and in my opinion, need to be cooked in specific ways, or with specific flavour combinations to really shine. Boiling them to death, so they are just small mushy green balls is not at all appealing to me.
This really makes them no different to any brassicas, really. If you are used to eating boiled broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts etc, and discover hot-and-fast roasted, or grilled versions of these same dishes it’s literally life changing. Pre-roasting cauliflower for cauliflower cheese is incredible - not only does it benefit hugely, flavour-wise, from roasting - you are completely free from soggy cauliflower, or water logged cheese sauce because of the moisture. Likewise, roasted or griddled broccoli with some garlic, salt and chilli - enough so the edges catch and really brown, is so far superior to its boiled variety its un-true.
Truly, the difference between good and not so good sprouts is really the cooking - roast them hot and fast with some fat (goose or pork fat if you are using some on the potatoes, but butter will work just fine too) and salt until they are nicely browned and they will already be starting to win over your guests, but here are two alternative recipes to further step it up a gear!
1. Bacon sprouts and balsamic vinegar
This is one of the first sprout dishes I made, on discovering the delights of hot-and-fast sprouts. It’s really simple and quick to do, and can be done in either a pan or in the oven (which is useful if either your hob or oven is getting too crowded).
The basic premise is simple - we will cook up the sprouts so they are nicely charred, along with some bacon, and once done we will add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The savoury saltiness from the bacon, the nuttiness from the charred sprouts and the acidic tang of the balsamic vinegar really brings this together as a lovely side for any roast!
2. Cheesey Sprouts
This one is a bit more decadent, as any vegetable is when its slathered in a rich cheese sauce! Here we take the same basic blueprint, and add cheese, what more needs saying?
Again, we will either roast or pan fry the sprouts with some bacon, at the same time making a cheese sauce - then once the sprouts are done combine and serve up. I like adding roasted cauliflower to this dish as well, and eat it as a meal outside of Christmas day in of itself!
- 1 bowl of sprouts - serves 2-8 people depending on how much people eat!
- 10 minutes
- 25 minutes
- 1 kg brussel sprouts, shelled and halved
- A tablespoon of butter
- 300 grams streaky bacon, chopped (regular bacon is fine if thats what you have)
- Optional - vinegar sprouts Balsamic vinegar
- Optional - cheesey sprouts 30 grams unsalted butter (about 2 tablespoons)
- Optional - cheesey sprouts 15 grams plain flour (about 2 tablespoons)
- Optional - cheesey sprouts 350 grams mature cheddar, grated (stronger the better if you ask me!)
- Optional - cheesey sprouts 400 ml milk
- Optional - cheesey sprouts teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- Scatter the sprouts in a baking tray along with the butter and roast at 200C in a pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes. The sprouts should be nicely browned
- After 10 minutes, add the chopped bacon to the tray and mix through, continue to roast for the remaining time
- For the vinegar sprouts, drizzle the vinegar over the sprouts and mix through, serve whilst hot.
- For the cheesey sprouts - melt the butter in a pan until the bubbling subsides (don't worry if the butter solids brown a little, this will go well with the sprouts)
- Mix in the flour and whisk through until combined
- slowly add the milk, a bit at a time, whisking through until thoroughly combined and smooth each time
- If you like mustard, add a teaspoon to the sauce and stir through, if you don't still add maybe 1/4 of a teaspoon - it won't be mustard-y but will add a nice flavour to the cheese sauce
- Take the sauce off the hob and mix in the grated cheese, stir through until smooth
- Pour the sauce over the sprouts and bacon, serve whilst hot
More delicious recipes
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