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Hunger Management

Braise or roast Brussels sprouts for delicious nutty flavour

The vegetable has earned a bad reputation due to the way it was cooked - or overcooked

Each of us has some food that we firmly dislike. For me, it used to be Brussels sprouts, a fairly unpopular vegetable, especially among children. Somehow, they seemed to end up as small soggy, bitter blobs which my mother constantly said were "good for me".

Despite my own disdain, I have been guilty of trying to persuade my children they are greens worth eating. They have since acquired taste for, but remain less than enthusiastic about Brussels sprouts.

Looking back, I blame the bad reputation on the way the vegetable was cooked - or overcooked.

A few years ago, several British academics reportedly put forward a few theories on why Brussels sprouts are so unpopular.

Some said many people have over-sensitive taste buds on the tongue, which makes the vegetable taste bitter. Others claim that some humans have a mutant gene that overcomes the bitter taste. But that is all too technical for me.

  • MAKE IT YOURSELF: BRAISED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH CAULIFLOWER

  • INGREDIENTS

    2 tbsp olive oil

    100g lean bacon, finely chopped (optional)

    300g Brussels sprouts (preferably small)

    Half a medium-sized cauliflower divided into small florets

    2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

    200ml chicken stock

    Salt and pepper

    METHOD

    1. Place the oil in a medium-sized pan or wok over medium heat.

    2. Add the bacon if using, halve the Brussels sprouts if they are large and add to the pan along with the cauliflower florets.

    3. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the sprouts and cauliflower soften and begin to brown a little.

    4. Add the thyme leaves and stock. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for about five to six minutes. Remove the cover and cook for about five more minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the sprouts and cauliflower are tender.

    5. Season with salt and pepper and serve as a side dish or as a base for a pan-fried salmon fillet.

    Serves four


    BRAISED LETTUCE AND PEAS (below)


    INGREDIENTS

    20g butter

    1 leek, white part only, finely sliced (about 100g)

    60g chopped bacon

    300g green peas (frozen is fine)

    1 medium-sized butter lettuce, shredded (Romaine lettuce is good as well)

    150ml chicken stock

    Salt and pepper

    METHOD

    1. Melt the butter in a shallow pan.

    2. Add the leek and bacon and cook over medium heat for about five to six minutes until soft.

    3. Add the peas and shredded lettuce. Stir well for several minutes until lettuce begins to wilt.

    4. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about five minutes or until stock has almost evaporated. Serve as a side dish.

    Serves four

Recently, I have become a big fan of Brussels sprouts, ever since I found that braising or roasting can bring out a delicious nutty flavour.

Which brings me to another unloved vegetable: the cauliflower. Try braising cauliflower florets with Brussels sprouts and chopped bacon, and you will have a really tasty side dish that goes very well with fish or meat. I love using braised Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as a base for a baked or pan-fried salmon fillet.

I was telling some relatives about my Brussels sprouts conversion and we talked about another vegetable dish which sounds hardly appetising - braised green peas and lettuce.

I read that cooking peas and lettuce together is not unusual as the French have been doing it for years. Plus, I know stir-fried lettuce is well-known in Asian cooking.

So I feel like I have been missing out for years on a great flavour combination. Many of us think of lettuce as purely a salad ingredient but, as I have found, it tastes great cooked like this and served with fish or chicken. I like to add some leeks and chopped bacon for added flavour.

Brussel sprouts are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, according to a food encyclopaedia. Eating just a few supplies a good amount of vitamins C and K.

Another thing that helps with the flavour is to look for smaller sprouts as they tend to be sweeter, more tender and have a less woody taste than larger ones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'New love for Brussels sprouts'. Print Edition | Subscribe