Brussel Sprouts

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, bacon and chestnuts

Pan-fried brussel sprouts with lardons and chestnuts

You’ll need:                                                                                                   Tin of 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.

Chocolate refrigerator cake with prunes and chestnuts

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstale’s chocolate refrigerator cake with chestnuts and brandy soaked prunes

You’ll need:

75gr prunes, roughly chopped

75gr raisins

3 tablespoons brandy

150gr dark chocolate

100gr butter

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!!


Bacon and Cabbage is one of the first things you think of when Irish cooking is mentioned but most of us aren’t exactly nostalgic about it mainly because the cooking technique so beloved of mammies of old ie. boiling everything for at least 3 days doesn’t really do a whole lot for most (or rather any) variety. But the combination of Bacon with Cabbage or greens really does work. Try asian style pork belly and stir-fried pak choy if you need convincing.  My first recipe is much less timeconsuming but completely moreish. It’s a gratin with bacon and cabbage  topped with Cheddar Cheese and toasted til golden. It’s very fast and a cinch to make and the perfect comfort food if no valentines cards come through the letterbox tomorrow….
Bacon and Cabbage Gratin
You’ll need:
Olive Oil 
1 Onion
6 Streaky Rashers
1 Head Green Cabbage
100gr Cheddar Cheese
Some breadcrumbs if you have them
Roughly chop your Onion and begin to saute over a lowish heat in some Olive Oil. Chop the rashers into little bits and add to the Onion as it starts to turns translucent. While the Onion and Rashers are cooking roughly shred the Cabbage. To do this I’d cut it in half and work from there. Rinse the shredded cabbage and then add it to the pan just before the Bacon starts to turn crispy. Continue cooking  over a lowish heat until the Cabbage has completely wilted and softened (this will take about 15 minutes). Transfer to a gratin dish and grate the Cheese over the top and sprinkle on some breadcrumbs. Toast until golden and serve immediately.
It’s Blood Orange season at the moment and as well making great juice they are great in a simple salad (try adding a little shredded Mint for xtra colour and flavour if you have it) which is amazing with pretty much any chocolate dessert. If you find you get through a lot we can deliver a box along with your regular delivery. They come in 6.5k boxes which cost 17E. Just give Mary a shout if you’re interested.