Brussels sprouts with orange

So, with just a week to go I thought it would be good to get in some sprout practice. I needed some anyway. It’s been a while and I’d forgotten how good they are.  So there’s the traditional Irish approach – boil ’em up for say, 20 minutes, 40 some would argue, til they’re nice and soggy. Then, leave in the oven for about 45 minutes, or cool then microwave for 2 – 5 mins.

It’s tempting I know but I’m going to propose something a little different. Lightly steamed then tossed in a very hot pan til beginning to blacken then spritzed with orange juice and a dash of balsamic and finally, topped with crispy breadcrumbs. Very delicious and, ready in under  10  minutes.

Pan-fried Brussels sprouts with orange and a dash of Balsamic with crispy breadcrumbs

You’ll need:

400gr brussels sprouts

olive oil

1/2 orange

Balsamic vinegar

A handful breadcrumbs

Wash and prepare the sprouts. If they are big, cut them in half but if they’re small leave them as they are. Steam them for about 2 minutes until they are barely al dente. Heat a generous dash of olive oil in a large pan and when it is hot throw in the sprouts and toss until they have started to blacken on all sides.


Squeeze the juice of the  half orange into the pan and continue tossing until it has been absorbed. Add salt and pepper then turn off the heat. Heat some olive oil in another pan and add the breadcrumbs and fry until golden. Top the sprouts with the breadcrumbs and serve.

Have a great week,



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!!


Sorry about the lack of posts lately but the weather is taking up all my time. This post’s from last year but I thought I’d move it up as lots of you have been asking for these recipes and it’s now less than 2 days to Christmas and I thought I’d make it a bit easier to find !!! These dishes are both killer and can be made in advance (ie tomorrow!!).

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Spices (This recipe will serve 4-6 as part of a roast meat meal but as it keeps well you may want to make more and freeze it)

You’ll need:

500gr red cabbage

1 large onion finely sliced


1 large apple grated

4-5 cloves,

Cinnamon stick (or generous pinch of powdered cinnamon)

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

150ml water

2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons blackcurrant jam or a dash of Ribena

Shred  the cabbage discarding the core and any tough leaves and set aside. Heat a generous knob of Butter in a pot and saute the onion over a medium heat until soft. While the onions are cooking, in a casserole dish (or any ovenproof dish with a lid) combine the cabbage, apple, Cloves, cinnamon stick or powder, allspice, nutmeg, red wine vinegar, water, dark brown sugar and blackcurrant jam or Ribena. Add the onions and a generous knob of butter then mix everything up seasoning well with salt and pepper.Cover and put into a medium oven for about an hour and a half stirring every 30 minutes or so.

And the gratin that’s possibly the best thing about Christmas (yes, really)…………

A gratin with Brussels sprouts, bacon and parmesan

You’ll need:

400gr Brussel sprouts

3 streaky rashers

4-5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

150ml double cream

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs

Prepare your Sprouts by peeling back any discoloured outer leaves and making a cross at the base with a sharp knife (nobody knows why you have to do this but you do). Bring them to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until soft with a hint of bite (i.e. not the pulp you might be familiar with). Drain and allow  to cool down a bit while you chop up the rashers and sauté in a pan. When the sprouts have cooled, halve them then pop into an ovenproof dish and toss with the bacon and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Season well with salt and pepper then add the cream. Mix everything allowing the cream to coat all the sprouts and then top with another 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan and a light sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Bake in a hottish oven (Gas mark 6) for about 24 minutes until golden brown.
Vegetarians can leave out the Bacon and it still tastes great.

If you want to eat this on Christmas day (and you will)  prepare everything up to the oven stage the day before or on  the morning and then stick it in the oven 25 minutes  before you carve.

Or keep it simple by steaming your sprouts  then tossing them on the pan with ……….
sautéed Onions and Butter
flaked Almonds
toasted Hazelnuts
Sesame seeds, Sesame oil and a little Tamari or Soy sauce

Have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year.