Food for Thought: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. Many will have memories of bitter, grey, watery and mushy cabbage like bundles that they were forced to eat as a child. Brussels sprouts however, if cooked correctly taste deliciously nutty, and are never grey or bitter.

Brussels sprouts although rated the most un-liked vegetable in the world, are at the same time, one of the world’s healthiest foods.

It is time to get brussels sprouts back in the good books. Forget memories from you childhood and re discover this delicious super food.

Facts and Details:
Brussels sprouts belong to the Brassica genus, which includes vegetables like the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and few varieties of Asian cabbage like vegetables.

About Brussels sprouts:
Different varieties of brussels sprouts most likely originated in Ancient Rome, however it was only in 1200’s that brussels sprouts as we know them today were cultivated in Belgium, and most likely got their name from the countries capital.

Brussels sprouts taste the best when grown between 15 to 18 degrees Celsius. It is also believed that they taste even better when the frost has hit them in early stages of growing.

What many people don’t realise is that these sprouts don’t grow straight from the ground like their relatives the cabbage and broccoli. They in fact grow like buds in a spiral form on the sides of thick stalks, maturing over several weeks from the lower part of the stalk to the upper part.

When choosing brussels sprouts look for ones that are small and bright green in colour. The leaves should be tightly attached to the bulb. If available buy them attached to the stalk. They are usually available like this at fresh food markets around Australia.

The Unpopular Sprout?
Brussels sprouts are most likely attributed as being such a disliked vegetable from old fashioned cooking methods, where vegetables were boiled until grey and mushy. Over cooking brussels sprouts like with cabbages and broccoli releases sulphur compounds in the vegetable that give off an unpleasant smell.

If cooked correctly brussels sprouts don’t smell bad or are bitter, instead they have a delicious nutty flavour.

The Super Food:
Brussels sprouts are considered to be a super food as studies have shown that they contain phytonutrient sulforaphem, which enhances the bodies natural defence system and also can protect against disease including cancer.

Apart from helping protect against disease they also contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and are a good source of dietary fibre.

How to Cook:
The most important rule when cooking Brussels sprouts is to NOT over cook them. Having said that however, there are a few recipes that call for brussels sprouts to be cooked for hours. They are however, required to cook on low heat in duck or goose fat, an ultimate delight for any food connoisseur.

Brussels sprouts most commonly are boiled, however they are perfect roasted, lightly pan fried or tossed in butter and herbs. Try matching Brussels sprouts with lemons, almonds, mustard, Parmesan cheese, blue cheese, chestnuts, nutmeg, onions and parsley.

To boil brussels sprouts perfectly remove any loose leaves, but leave the stem in tack. Cut a cross in the bottom of the sprout. This helps in an even cooking, however some believe that the ‘cross’ leaches flavour. I disagree with this theory as the cooking process is shortened with the aid of the cross, speeding up the cooking and keeping a tasty nutty flavour as apposed to the mushy version you get from over cooking.

Bring salted water to the boil. Place the sprouts in the water and boil for up to 8 minutes depending on their size. You know they are ready when a knife slides in smoothly but with a little friction.
Drain very well and serve.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

500g small Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pine nuts

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Trim Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters. Toss in olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Spread out in a baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes. In the last few minutes add the pine nuts.

Serves 4 as a side dish with meat or fish.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Apples.

500g Brussels sprouts
100g pancetta, cut into cubes, if unavailable whole, sliced pancetta is fine cut into strips
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
100 ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil

Following the instructions about prepare the brussels sprouts. Boil in salted water for 4 minutes until they are still crisp in the middle and drain.

In a large fry pan heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and pancetta until the onions are translucent and the bacon crispy. Add the apples wedges and turn the heat to medium. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.

In the meantime cut the Brussels sprouts into quartes. Add the brussels sprouts to the pancetta and apples, add the stock and mustard. Continue to cook until the stock has reduced and the sprouts are just cooked.

Serves 4 as a side dish with meat, or 2 as a main course.




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