Sprouts. Love them or hate them, the little green cabbages are an integral part of Christmas lunch and I want to fancy them up a bit. We all know the tricks of having some festive chestnuts roasted in with them, or given a bit of body with some lovely fatty pancetta, but I had a think about some more unusual and dare I say it - cooler - combinations to help your Brussels sprouts steal the limelight this year.
It goes without saying but do not overcook your sprouts or they will be balls of sad, bitter mush. I know everyone says to put a cross on the bottom but for me this makes them soggy. I just cook them quickly in rapidly boiling water (about 5 minutes) and then they are still al dente enough to do something more exciting with...
1) Sprouts with N'duja and Garlic
Steam or boil your sprouts as normal. Right at the end, drain away any excess water and add crushed garlic and about a teaspoon of n'duja for every 8-10 sprouts, then allow it to slowly cook down on a low heat, stirring and coating the sprouts with the precious sticky n'duja paste as you go. If you want more info on n'duja, you can read about it here.
The result is a gloriously smoky, meaty hit of paprika heavy pork which can more than stand up to the wintry bitterness of any larger sprouts you have hanging around. Definitely one for leftovers.
2) Sprouts with Chilli and Almonds
Chilli is always a winner with any dark green veg, and brussels are no exception. Use dried or fresh chillis, finely chopped and bash up some unsalted almonds to go in with it for some crunch. Toast them off in a dry pan first for maximum flavour before adding the almonds, chilli and sprouts to a dry pan and gently colouring. Once they're warmed through the sprouts take on a fresh greenness and a bit of zing with the chilli and almonds. This would also be really nice as the base for a turkey pilaff come Boxing Day. If you have time on your side then it would be worth making the almonds into an almond butter (just blend in a food processor for about 20 minutes) then adding to sprouts.
3. Sprouts with Lemon, Horseradish and Pomegranate
I don't know about you, but I always have pomegranates in the fridge at Christmas as they have the uncanny ability to pretty up just about any dish or drink in seconds. The master of all veg, Ottolenghi, uses pomegranates with brassicas like they're going out of fashion, so I have unashamedly copied him and just stirred in some very hot horseradish sauce along with some lemon juice and olive oil. I suprised myself with how well this combination works, and if I find myself with a spare bit of beef for roasting over Christmas then I'll be doing these with it.
PS. Top tip for getting pomegranate seeds out - just cut in half horiztonally and then, holding the fruit over the pan / bowl, give the upturned skin side a bloody good bash with a wooden spoon and they'll shoot out.