Okay, I apologise for the clickbait. It got you here and I hope that I can rebuild your trust now with some well-meaning sprout pontification.
If you were born before 2010 then you’ve spent the better part of your life eating boiled Brussel sprouts. Like sunbathing, E numbers and wet-look gel; we didn’t know better.
Brussels are high in hydrogen sulphide, which gives them that pungent savoury scent. I don’t know the science of this next part, but I’m pretty sure over boiling them compounds the smell, producing that nostalgic “used bathwater” eau de toilette. Second to stale tinsel and perhaps a freshly opened Toblerone, over-boiled brussels reign supreme as the 90s Christmas sentimental scent.
Something happened a few years ago. It was probably Jamie Oliver or the high winter priestess herself, Nigella, but an assortment of modern sprout dishes entered the Christmas table. Sausage meats, chestnuts and bacon suddenly were on the menu. Every BBC Christmas food special ended with someone tapping pomegranate seeds onto a mound miniature green cabbages.
I’d like to interrupt this post to make it clear that pomegranates are the fruit of Satan.
The great thing about brussel sprouts is that you can be truly creative with them. No-one really cares that much about them, but we want to see some permutation of them on the table. So let’s start from the beginning; you are supposed to call them “Brussels Spouts”, which sounds weird AF. Brussels are actually from Brussels in Belgium. It’s classified as a wild cabbage and like its cabbage, broccoli and kale cousins, it needs some help to make it palatable. If you are someone who loves eating raw kale and getting your teeth around some al dente broccoli; this blog is not for you. Thank you for coming.
For the rest of you; There are lots of ways that we show our sprouts some TLC. Firstly; Cooking them. Of course, you can boil them. However, under no circumstances should you score the bottom of them; You’ll get waterlogged sprouts. If you are willing to get a bit more adventurous; let’s burn them. Cut them in half, toss them in oil and arrange the cut sides down onto a preheated oven tray. Cook for 20 minutes at 180, toss in citrus zest and salt. Charring your sprouts gives them a fab nutty sweet flavour and the little citrus zest makes them the perfect accompaniment for ham and turkey.
You can also celebrate your sprouts by introducing new flavours and textures. Sprouts can be very one-note in taste and crunch. You want every dish on your table to be a star in its own right.
Salt – Without salt, you cannot taste. I recommend, in the first instance, to use a good quality salt during cooking and to finish the plate. I use Cornish sea salt, but there are plenty out there in the market. Whatever you do, do NOT use Rock salt. There are other ways of adding salt including cured meats, soy sauce, anchovies, capers and feta. Think about what your a serving for dinner and introduce the flavours that will compliment.
Fat – Your method of cooking will most likely inform the kind of fat you use. Fat is going to add richness and flavour to your sprouts. You can toss in butter before serving, coat in oil before grilling or, as is very popular, use fatty meat like bacon lardons to get a rich tasty fat that you can then cook your sprouts in.
Acid – When you add something acidic to your food, you hit different parts of your tastebuds and brighten up the taste. Think about additions like citrus fruits, vinegar, and even condiments like sour cream and mayonnaise. You could pickle some finely sliced red onions in white wine vinegar for a few minutes and toss them into the Brussels. A sour cream addition would give acid and fat to your Brussels, giving almost a “potato salad” quality. It’s Christmas. It’s fine.
Nuts – Probably belonging in the “fats” column, but I really think they deserve their own mention. Adding nuts to your sprouts is a delicious way to add flavour and texture. My thoughts are; Always toast walnuts to get reduce their bitterness, brussels bring enough of that on their own. Chestnuts are seasonal, but I don’t think they provide enough texture. Pecans reign supreme for me and I could probably be talked into hazelnuts.
Leftovers? If you have raw sprouts left over; treat them like cabbage and slice them fine into a slaw. They’ll be delicious on Boxing Day turkey rolls.
So, in summation; Brussels belong on our plates on Christmas Day. We may have a strained relationship with Brussels, but that is no reason to get rid of them completely. We are stronger with Brussels. We are lucky to have Brussels. Britain; let’s not abandon Brussels.
The last paragraph was brought to you by subtle political satire and the misuse of capitalisation.