Dabbler Soup – Up the sprout

Following up her triumphant venison mincemeat recipe, Jassy attempts a Christmas Mission Impossible: making sprouts edible…

Is there a more painful Christmas ritual than the annual passing round of the Brussels sprouts, accompanied by the traditional chant: “You have to take at least one, you have to take at least one”? Overcooked and over here, these mini Belgium brassicas haunt the Christmas table like the shadow of Jacob Marley, bringing an infernal whiff of sulphur to the tinselly proceedings.

Since Cato the Elder suggested them as a cure for hangovers, Brussels have been in the unlovely position of being recommended more often for their health benefits than their flavour. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, they are, like their bigger cabbagey brothers, very good for you. But being a counterbalance to all the Quality Street isn’t a good enough reason to keep a vegetable on my plate. It also has to taste good.

The pursuit of deliciousness begins with not overcooking them. Boiling sprouts until they go mushy releases sinigrin, which gives them that sulphurous smell. If you’re going to boil them, 7–8 minutes should be enough. You want them al dente with a little toothsome crunch. To check, insert a skewer and if it just goes through, they’re ready. And make sure you don’t put the lid on while they cook; they’ll lose their bright green colour and go grey.

Better than simply boiling them, is to boil or steam them for a few minutes and then finish them off in a pan with some fat and flavours. After all, who enjoys plain boiled cabbage or kale? This year, I’m adding some warming Spanish spice to my Brussels with chorizo and a splash of sherry. Prepared this way, there’s a chance I won’t have to coerce the dinner guests into taking a spoonful, but I’m readying my chant, just in case.

Brussels sprouts with chorizo and almonds
Serves 6– 8

2 tbsp flaked almonds
750g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and any tired looking outer leaves peeled off
½ tbsp olive oil
60g sliced chorizo, roughly chopped
4 tbsp dry manzanilla sherry
25g salted butter, chopped

1. Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until the almonds are golden. Tip into a bowl and set aside.

2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the sprouts. Simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes, so the sprouts are just starting to become tender. Drain and set aside.

3. Pour the oil into the frying pan and warm over a medium-low heat. Add the chorizo and fry, stirring, for 30 seconds. Tip in the sprouts, season with salt and pepper and stir to mix. Add the sherry and fry, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the sprouts are just cooked – a skewer inserted should just go through. Stir in the butter and toss to coat the sprouts. Tip into a warm serving dish, sprinkle over the almonds and a pinch of sea salt and serve.

Note on the chorizo: I used sliced chorizo because it’s the easiest to get hold off. If you can get an unsliced chorizo sausage, use that. Skin and chop it into small chunks and fry for 1 minute, stirring, to release the oil.

Share This Post

About Author Profile: Jassy Davis


15 thoughts on “Dabbler Soup – Up the sprout

  1. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 08:50

    Prepared that way they soum mouth watering Jazzy, providing of course that any can be found in the shops. Sprouts have to be the greatest methane generators since the invention of the bovine bum. Will Harveys Bristol Cream do, we can finally get rid of that half empty bottle lying around since the mother in law popped her clogs.

    • gindrinkers@ooglemail.com'
      December 23, 2010 at 13:34

      The Harveys will probably be a bit too sweet, but you never know. You can always send the Harveys round to my house – it’s my family’s Christmas guilty pleasure. Mince pie, roaring fire, glass of Harveys, paper hat = Christmas.

  2. Worm
    December 23, 2010 at 08:53

    yumyumyyum! But then I always liked sprouts, being a contrarian sort. I shall attempt to press this recipe upon the christmas day chefs at our family gathering as this sounds better than the bacon and chestnuts that we usually add ( I hate chestnuts, they are the most pointless carbohydrate)

  3. nigeandrew@gmail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 09:45

    Delicious – you’d never know you were eating sprouts! (which seems to be the point of all the best sprout recipes)

  4. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    December 23, 2010 at 09:48

    As I observed to Jassy when she suggested this Christmas Mission Impossible, if she really can make sprouts delicious then she will have done an invaluable service to humanity.

    She does take lovely photos too. I could wolf that lot down (well I’d wolf the chorizo and almonds – obviously I’d leave the bloody sprouts…)

  5. tobyash@hotmail.com'
    Toby Ash
    December 23, 2010 at 10:23

    Chorizo with anything is delicious, although I fear sprouts may be a challenge too far.
    Jassy, the venison mincemeat is in the fridge, ready for early evening pies on Christmas day. Can’t wait!

    • gindrinkers@ooglemail.com'
      December 23, 2010 at 10:25

      Brilliant! Got a jar of venison mincemeat and a packet of all butter puff pastry in my fridge too, waiting to go. Just need to mull the wine to go with it.

  6. martinjpollard@hotmail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 11:26

    I never used to eat sprouts until my wife started frying them in butter. This makes them delicious, although it does have the side effect of sabotaging their health benefits.

  7. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 11:37

    I haven’t been this excited about a new culinary masterpiece since I was introduced to low-fat zucchini muffins.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 23, 2010 at 12:10

      Ah, now we would call those ‘slimline courgette buns’ I think…

  8. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 12:08

    Prefab Sprout revival anyone.

    Please be careful, is never careful
    Till it hears the gun
    She will always pay the bills
    For the having big fun
    He talks so well (talks so well)
    what can you do
    It’s pretty plain (pretty plain)
    he means it too

    I don’t want to sell you lines,
    I only mean to do you right
    But I’m a simple slave of appetite,
    I’m a poor slave of appetite

    Hunger howls (hunger howls)
    Hunger’s red,
    Hunger stays (hunger stays)
    ‘Till it’s fed
    Then it someha-ha-how fades,
    Then it somehow leaves your sight
    Depending on it’s appetite,
    Depending on your appetite

  9. Gaw
    December 23, 2010 at 12:59

    I’ve just got back from buying 6 sprouts just for me on Christmas Day (“How much are they each?”). No-one else likes them but I find a knob of butter and some ground pepper more than enough to make them palatable.

    But isn’t it all down to genes – whether one has the sort of taste buds that pick up a sulphurous flavour in brassicas? If you have, I fear it’s fundamentally ineradicable, though I imagine chorizo would be big enough to mask it well.

    Worm, surely chestnuts are lush with stuffing, turkey and gravy?

  10. gindrinkers@ooglemail.com'
    December 23, 2010 at 13:51

    @Worm See, I’ve always been a sprout hater, but I’m coming round to them. Think the chorizo helps. Reckon a pinch of smoked paprika wouldn’t go amiss here, either, now I think about it.

    @Nige Oh, it’s very much the point.

    @Brit Maybe I should’ve ut more chorizo in the recipe, so you think you’re about to eat a big forkful of chorizo and wham! There’s a sprout in your mouth. Or maybe that’s not such a great idea.

    @Martin Nah, sprouts are so healthy that even butter can’t defeat them.

    @Peter Excited by both low fat zucchini muffins and a sprout recipe? You’re clearly a masochist.

    @malty I am a slave to appetite, so that seems entirely apposite.

    @Gaw Yes, there were reports that some people are supertasters because they have more tastebuds than most and perceive favours more intensely, especially bitter ones. being a supertaster sounds quite cool, so I’ve always claimed that’s my problem.

    But it’s probably also down to sprouts being overcooked and they also do start to degenerate once they are cut off their stem (although they will last for weeks) and develop that school dinner flavour. The longer they’re kept on the stem, the sweeter and nuttier they will be.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      December 23, 2010 at 21:48

      and wham! There’s a sprout in your mouth

      Good name for a band, that….

  11. bugbrit@live.com'
    Banished To A Pompous Land
    December 23, 2010 at 20:48

    Late in commenting as ever but for years I’ve par boiled for crunch and then fried them in butter with bacon and chestnuts

Comments are closed.