Two ways to spruce up Brussels sprouts

Chances are you’ll be eating a few of these next week, so here are some ideas to make them taste delicious. Photographs: Harry Weir

 

VANESSA’S WAY: STIR FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SMOKED BACON AND WINE

As people start to make preparations, Christmas eve is like groundhog day, with the inevitable kitchen sound bites over the Brussels sprouts. I am convinced this is one battle that brings out the devilishness in a generation who like their Brussels sprouts boiled, in the traditional way.

However, with a steak or pork dinner, I think they taste much more delicious when they are not overcooked. The simplest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to treat them like mini cabbages.

They can be sliced and stir fried with any number of flavours added, including chestnuts and nuts (for vegetarians). Both smoked bacon and paprika spiced chorizo give an intensely rich base for a light and creamy sauce.

If they are not overcooked, they also taste great reheated the next day for your lunch. But they are so tasty, I doubt you’ll have any left.

I once saw a good sales gimmick at a festive fair whereby hoards of shoppers were proudly walking around carrying huge stalks of Brussels sprouts with their Christmas shopping. Whether you love them or loathe them, they’re always a talking point.

GARY’S WAY: BRUSSELS SPROUTS, SMOKED BACON AND ONION MORNAY WITH TRUFFLED PARMESAN CRUST

I hate Brussels sprouts. No point lying about it. Aside from the taste, there is another good reason. Cast your mind back to the winter of 1995. It was Baltic. It was my first Christmas at college and it was to be my first Christmas away from home.

I was shipped out to the Great Northern hotel in Bundoran to work the crazy Christmas and New Year season and I took wee Joe, my best buddy, with me. Joe was a smoker and a messer. A great chef, but he’d break your heart trying to find him half the day.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve and I saw the head chef chatting to him. I asked what he wanted. To fill these eight black bins with trimmed sprouts, he said. An all night job. Disaster.

So I asked, “Was that all he said, trim the root?”

“Aye, aye, that’s it” said Joe.

Twelve hours later, Christmas morning arrived. Chef landed in and I saw him sizing up the sprouts. His head shook. I knew there’d be trouble ahead. “Where’s the crisscross on the root?” he screamed. My head dropped. Wee Joe just laughed. I nearly cried.

Chef put his boot to the first bin he saw and shouted at us to start all over again. Happy Christmas. That was enough to turn me off sprouts for life.

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