It doesn’t get much more controversial when it comes to vegetables than Brussels sprouts. They may only be small in size but opinions on this contentious vegetable run deep. The source of many a festive falling out, whether you love them or hate them — Brussels sprouts are here to stay.
This cruciferous vegetable gets its name from its popularity in — yes, you guessed it — Brussels, Belgium. There are records of early varieties that trace back to Rome, however, the version we know and love (or perhaps not) were widely cultivated in Belgium as far back as the 16th Century.
But why do people hate them? Well, there are a couple of factors that make this veg more divisive than any other. First of all, it may actually be a genetic thing. Scientists have found that the bitterness that many people taste when they eat sprouts could actually be due to a gene that allows the bitter compounds to be tasted more predominantly.
Secondly, it’s all in the way you cook them. Overcook them and, as you’ll undoubtedly know, sprouts will start producing a sulphur-type of aroma. This can be a turn oﬀ for many people and has been a major reason behind the instantaneous, nose-sneering reaction that Brussels often receive when mentioned.
Nevertheless, Brussels sprouts are little balls of nutritional goodness. With high protein and fibre content, along with being a great source of potassium, calcium, folic acid and vitamins C, A and K, eating them can be highly beneficial to your (potentially questionable) festive diet plan.
To reap the benefits of Brussels, you’re going to want to cook them right, though. Interestingly, the tastiest sprouts are probably not cooked in the way you’d expect. Most importantly, be sure to undercook rather than overcook — 8 minutes should be ample time — plus it may be time to get rid of your usual boiling method and try something new.
In fact, Matthew Rawson, chairman of the Brassica Growers Association, believes that we need to start again with how we cook our sprouts. He explained: “Boiling them was traditionally the way of doing it, but putting the cross in puts in too much water. They turn soggy and rubbish.”
He continued: “People now are learning that it is a very versatile vegetable. The big ones lend themselves well to a stir-fry. People are steaming them, and there are fancy microwave packs. It is being driven forward by people who
are more creative.”
So, it’s time to get creative with your sprouts. Cook them some diﬀerent ways, find the ways that you like them best, and perhaps you may even be able to convince a sprout-hater that they are not so bad after all.
Plus, don’t forget that sprouts aren’t just for Christmas. Surprisingly, two-thirds of our consumption of sprouts actually comes outside of the Christmas season. Embrace sprouts this Christmas, and you could even end up enjoying them for a while into the new year too.
We’ve got some fun and slightly diﬀerent ideas on the following pages, so why not give them a go.
But what can I do with brussels sprouts?
Bubble N Squeak
Named after the noise made by the cabbage as it gets fried, you can use your Brussels in place of the usual cabbage and fry with chopped, leﬅ over potatoes, plus carrots, peas and nut roast from the big day. It’s a Christmas must-have and the ideal way to get your fussy kids eating more greens. Serve with Boxing Day breakfast and don’t see any of your food go to waste.
Not dissimilar to bubble n squeak, you can make the most of your sprouts by adding to a stir fry with rice noodles, bean sprouts, and all of your usual stir fry staples. We’re big fans of adding in meat-free bacon rashers to the pan, for a meatier texture and smoky taste. This is a great way to cure any sore heads from having one too many Sherries the night before.
Another great addition to your plant based fry up is making your own hash browns. Shred potato, onions and Brussels sprouts before squeezing some of the liquid out of them by wrapping in kitchen towel. Season with salt and pepper and shape into triangular cakes. Fry in oil over a high heat until golden brown.
Veg Kebab Skewers
You’re bound to have lots of party buﬀets to prepare over the festive season. Prep chunks of courgette, mushroom, pepper, red onion and cherry tomatoes alongside your Brussels and toss in balsamic vinegar. Grill until the outsides are charred whilst the inside becomes soft and slightly crunchy still.
There’s always room for an extra green in your salad, right? We love chopping the sprouts into small chunks and chargrilling before mixing with kale leaves, walnuts, slices of onion and shavings of apple before drizzling over a delicious Dijon mustard-based dressing. Make your salad like us, or do it your own way, but don’t let those sprouts go to waste.