Peter Russell-Clarke Knows Brussels Sprouts!

When I started on television, I was called ‘Peter Brussels Sprout’. Maybe my head looked like a tightly leafed cabbage. Anyway, the name stuck so it was natural I looked into the history of the miniature look-alike sample of the brain of the jolly green giant.

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So I was introduced to Brussels Sprouts as a young lad, but it was in the 16th Century that Britain got their first taste of them.

You see, back in history, the British had soundly defeated the Belgians in battle and, to curry favour (no pun intended), the defeated Belgian King sent a galleon full of Brussels Sprouts (hence the name) to the British monarch as a goodwill gesture. The gesture was a failure as the English King’s Court rejected the little cabbages as a foreign bribe and relegated the shipload to the markets of the poor.

So they ignominiously remained poor man’s food and were sneered at from that day on. Give a dog a bad name, eh?

Anyway, it is only now that good folk are realizing the little green gems have an intriguing and unique nutty flavour. I’m interested that the Europeans historically have paired the Brussels Sprouts with chestnuts. I grow chestnuts but, to date, haven’t combined the two. I’ve been too occupied making sure I not only get my fair share of the Brussels Sprouts goodies – beta-carotene, vitamins A, B3, B6, C and E, folic acid, iron, calcium and potassium, anti-cancer properties particularly of stomach and colon as they are a ripper source of fibre – but also take advantage of their grown-up flavour. To do that I’m careful to retain that unique flavour but sit beside it other flavours which don’t either overpower it or are, indeed, overpowered by it.

For instance I sometimes serve diced fresh orange with Brussels Sprouts. The orange is mixed in at the last minute so it doesn’t cook, therefore I taste the orange as well as the Brussels Sprouts. Or I stir in yoghurt with a splash of soy sauce and garlic.

(My grandson is a professional dancer and needs energy so I drizzled a little honey over flaked Brussels Sprouts leaves as they wilted in butter. It must have worked as he is now an international dancer.)

And since I’m talking about good things, the Brussels Sprouts is a cruciferous (cross) vegetable which means the leaves cross over and any vegetable which has a similar configuration – lettuce, cabbage, etc. – is said to be a deterrent to cancer.

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So Brussels Sprouts are good-o. An easy way to prepare the vegetable is to cut off the hard stalk, cut the sprout in half and cut out the rest of the hard stalk and then separate the leaves and quickly blanch them in hot water. Don’t overcook. Once they’ve wilted, pop them into an ovenproof dish, lightly spray them with a little olive oil, add a small splash of lemon juice and Mirin and a small amount of garlic granules. Mix quietly to coat the leaves, settle the mix, then top with a light sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a few flakes of Parmesan cheese. Turn the oven onto 200 deg.C for 8 minutes to brown the breadcrumbs then serve as an entree. They also sit comfortably beside a lamb chop.

Now, I’ve purposely left out an ingredient – so hopefully you can add what you believe it could be. Or maybe you could add an ingredient which would suit your palate. If you’d let me know what that ingredient is, I’ll select the one I believe to be appropriate and publish it here next month. My wife suggested anchovies, but she also likes nutmeg. Red capsicum, onion – it’s endless isn’t it? Anyway, good luck,

PS. The reason the little green orbs are called ‘Sprouts’ is because they sprout from the same central stalk from which leaves sprout.

Now, here’s a masterpiece which could be Scottish except for the limes.

Brussels Sprouts Poached in Lime Juice

Ingredients:

  • zest and juice of 3 limes
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 500 g Brussels Sprouts, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon malt whisky

Method:

Put the lime juice and zest, together with the salt and caster sugar, into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Throw in the Brussels Sprouts and bring back to a simmer. Pop a lid on the saucepan and let them simmer gently for a couple of minutes. Take the lid off the pan and increase the heat. Boil rapidly, continuously shaking the pan so the Brussels Sprouts don’t stick, until only a tablespoon of liquid remains. Pour the whisky over them and serve.
If you don’t like whisky or brandy, forget it and stick with the rest of the good stuff.