I think that brussel sprouts get a raw deal (pardon the pun). It must stem (ditto) from their use in English cooking when they were boiled to death. Or maybe they just weren’t very fresh to begin with. Or perhaps it has to do with all those recipes for gratins and with bacon. Or just a lack of imagination. I love them. Years ago when I was a very poor student I survived on a diet of brown rice and either broccoli or brussel sprouts with a dressing of tamari and tahini and the ocaisional addition of crumbled feta to break up the boredom. It was, surprisingly, a very good combination: tahini and soy/tamari is a great foil to the somewhat bitter flavour of the sprouts.
These days I very rarely eat brussel sprouts but then again, I very rarely see them in the shops. While we were in the UK recently I came across them in markets being sold on the stem. What a revelation. I never knew they grew like that.
Although I have managed to get my family enthused about these tiny vegetables, it is not their ‘go-to’ ingredient. But I really like them – either dry roasted in a pan, or roasted in the oven with olive oil or finely shaved and used in a salad with a nice red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. There are in fact many ways of serving this much-aligned vegetable. Ottolenghi has a wonderful recipe for brussel sprouts and tofu (click here) and one with pomegranate and purple basil which is well worth trying (click here); the shaved brussel sprout salad with pancetta and poached egg – a classic dish on the menu of Sydney’s Fratelli Fresh – is one of my dishes of choice when there; and for a simple meal at home, I like to slice the sprouts then pan roast them and then add some olive oil, grated lemon rind (or even better, preserved lemon), toasted pine-nuts and chilli flakes. For more substance, add either slices of grilled haloumi or crumbled goat cheese and finish off with a handful of chopped parsley.
My take on Cafe Sopra’s Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad
3-4 stems cavolo nero (if you can find baby cavolo nero, even better), finely sliced
100g brussel sprounts, trimmed and finely shaved (do this in a food processor with a slicing attachment)
1 spanish onion, finely sliced
6 slices pancetta
60g parmesan, grated
4 soft poached eggs
20ml balsamic vinegar
lemon vinaigrette (see below)
Place cavolo nero, brussel sprouts and onion in a bowl and pour over ¾ of the vinaigrette. Mix well and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, either bake or pan fry the pancetta till nice and crisp. Set aside.
Poach 4 eggs to just cooked (they should be nice and runny when broken with a fork).
Add the pancetta, parmesan and remaining vinaigrette to the salad. Toss well to mix. Top with poached egg and a drizzle of the balsamic.
For lemon vinaigrette
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
I garlic clove, finely chopped
4 tbls olive oil
Place in a jar and shake till thoroughly blended.
Now I just have to figure out how to make this for just 2 people – you can only have so many leftovers :-(