Cooking Brussel Sprouts
Love them or hate them, sprouts are in season in the winter months and are bound to appear on your plate at sometime over the festive season. If, like me, you love sprouts, you will look forward to them beautifully cooked – soft but not soggy with a nutty sweet flavour. It is of course essential to cook sprouts well. Many people have been put off sprouts because of overcooking resulting in a soggy, watery offering with a sulpherous smell – yuk!
If you love your brussels, to get the most from this winter vegetable, you will want to cook them to perfection every time, to get the full taste and nutritional benefits
There is of course the theory that some people have a gene that detects a bitter substance in the sprouts, making them quite unpalatable. Some people might dispute this however as they have learnt to love sprouts over time, but may be they are the people whose first encounter with brussels was overcooked, tired sprouts. I ma unsure that liking or disliking sprouts runs in the genes, since there are people on both sides of the fence in my family.
Like them or not, brussels are of course, very good for you being high in vitamin C, vitamin A, fibre and many other nutrients. They can also provide protection against some cancers. So if you love Brussels, eat them to your hearts content. They are low calorie and fat free.
It is thought that sprouts were first grown in Brussels in the thirteenth century but were not introduced to Britain until very late in the eighteenth century. However there is possible evidence of them being cultivated before this time. It is perhaps surprising that they are a relative newcomer to the British diet, considering they have such an established place in it now, especially at Christmas time! Eliza Acton includes a recipe for Brussel sprouts in her cookery book of 1845
When selecting your brussel sprouts, choose specimans that are firm, with compact leaves and that look fresh and green. They should be almost odourless – they only develop that cabbagey smell when they are getting old. They should be eaten soon after buying. Sprouts bought while still on the stalk tend to keep a little longer.
Buy local, freshly harvested brussels whenever possible, store them in a cool dark place and consume them within a day or two.
You can can boil or steam your sprouts. How soft you want them is a matter of preference – some like theirs softer than others, but don’t cook them for so long that they go soggy. And do reserve the water they are boiled in fro stock or gravy as it will be full of goodness!
Allow 6-10 sprouts per person – about 150g / 5oz
Wash and remove any loose or damaged leaves
Cut the stalk close to the leaves
It is traditional to cut a cross on the bottom of the sprout – this is really only required for larger sprouts
Place in boiling water and simmer until soft – about 5 – 8 minutes
ALternatively steam them for 6-10 minutes
Serve immediately, piping hot
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