Brussels sprouts have had a lot of bad press over the years, and have divided many a festive table. They are one of the most misunderstood and underrated of vegetables, much like their cousin, cabbage. But this is because we often boil the hell out of them. Boiled sprouts not only lose most of their nutrients into their cooking water, they are also in danger of being overcooked, leading to the soft, pallid spheres of mush we have become used to seeing on our Christmas table. So what’s the secret?
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The best way to cook sprouts is not by boiling them. The best way to enhance their flavour is to caramelise them by either roasting or pan-frying them. This brings out their natural sweet nuttiness – a far cry from the mushy mess you might be used to. Pairing your Brussels with complementary flavours is also key. Nuts are a perfect pairing with sprouts; try roasted pecans, hazelnuts or chestnuts. The fattiness of bacon or pancetta is a welcome addition, and the acidity of lemon juice or sherry vinegar balances the flavour nicely. Pan-frying them with butter helps, while olive oil can also work well.
If you’re still keen on a boiled sprout, then be sure to only cook them until al-dente to bring out their sweet and nutty flavour. You can also refresh them in ice-cold water after cooking – this will help keep their colour and stop them from continuing to cook in the residual heat.
Here are three of our favourite ways with Brussels sprouts.
1. Pan-Fried Brussels With Chestnuts & Bacon
Pan-fried sprouts is the way to go in this recipe. Chestnuts add extra sweetness, balanced with savoury bacon, and the butter rounds it all off to be the perfect Christmas side.
2. Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Lemon & Chilli
Roasting your sprouts, like in this recipe, gives them a lovely caramelised edge and partnering them with lemon and chilli makes them incredibly addictive.
3. Potato Gratin With Brussel Sprouts
Brussels sprouts’ green sweet, cabbagy leaves turn golden and wonderfully crisp on top of this creamy potato gratin recipe. Feel free to add some bacon lardons to the mix, or keep it veggie, with layers of potato and double cream. Indulgent and comforting.