Brussel Sprouts – they’re not just for Christmas you know….. plus a chocolate refrigerator cake with chestnuts and brandy soaked prunes that is to die for!!!!
December 4, 2011
For most people they’re a Marmite variety – you either love them or hate them. A lot of this has to do with how they’re prepared. In most houses they get cooked once a year on Christmas day (tradition innit?) when they are boiled for at least 20 minutes then languish on everyone’s plate (in twos and threes) before being tipped into the bin after dinner. It’s a shame because if you treat them right they can be pretty special. No, really. For the last few years I’ve been serving them on the big day in a gratin with cream, bacon and Parmesan and they’ve stolen the show every time. Creamy and moreish with lots of lovely saltiness from the bacon and Parmesan this dish rocks and works with with any roast.
In broad terms, everything you can do with a cabbage you can do with spouts. They are made for things like bacon and cheese while Asian flavours like ginger, sesame oil and mirin really work as well. A simple dish to try is a variation on one I often do with cabbage. Parboil the sprouts, quarter them, fry up with bacon and/or onions til everything is crispy and caramelised then top with grated cheese and grill til golden. With a bowl of creamy mash you’ll be hard pushed to find a more moreish supper now that the weather’s turned cold.
Pan-fried is another great way to go because this way they turn lovely and golden. You can keep it simple and just add a handful of slivered almonds and a spritz of lemon or you can go seasonal and do them with chestnuts and bacon.
Pan-fried brussel sprouts with lardons and chestnuts
350gr brussel sprouts halved or quartered if they’re large
1 medium onion chopped
75gr bacon – lardons, pancetta or streaky rashers chopped all work well
100gr chestnuts roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper
Heat a little oil on the pan and throw in the onion. Saute for a minute or two then add the bacon and fry until just starting to change colour. Add the sprouts and gently pan-fry everything until the sprouts are tender and the bacon nice and crispy. This will take about 10 minutes. Be sure to keep everything moving to avoid burning the the onions. Remove from the pan and serve.
This dish can be made ahead of time then reheated either in a microwave or covered in the oven.
Another reason to cook the sprouts this way is that you’ll have the perfect excuse to make what has to be one of my favourite chocolate deserts – a chestnut chocolate refrigerator cake with chestnuts and prunes soaked in brandy. I mean, what else are you going to do with the rest of that tin of chestnuts? It’s a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstale recipe from years back and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but when I made it again recently I decided I had to share it. It’s beyond amazing and, with a cup of strong black coffee, one of the best finishes to a meal I know.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstale’s chocolate refrigerator cake with chestnuts and brandy soaked prunes
75gr prunes, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons brandy
150gr dark chocolate
150gr ginger nut biscuits roughly crushed
150gr cooked and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
Combine the dried fruit with the brandy and leave to soak for at least two hours. Line a 20 cm square tin or 20 cm diameter round tin with clingfilm. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir in the fruit, chestnuts and biscuits and mix everything well. Pour into the tin then refrigerate until solid. Serve in either squares or wedges.
This week there are gorgeous red cabbages in all our bags and again I had Christmas in mind when I included them. The classic slowcooked cabbage with apple and spices which goes so well with turkey can be made ahead of time and frozen. It’s a cinch to make but takes hours in the oven so why not make it in advance the next time you’re doing some slowcooking? Otherwise, salad is an obvious way to go and also bear in mind that red cabbage is beautiful stir-fried.
With Christmas firmly in my sights I’ll have all the details of our Christmas bags ready by early next week. As usual we’ll be able to deliver everything you’ll be needing for the day and beyond.
In the meantime stay warm!!