by Celia Brooks from SuperVeg (Murdoch Books)
Photography: Jean Cazals
These adorable miniature cabbages have endured a maligned existence due to being obliviously overcooked. Light cooking is essential with sprouts; they quickly reach a stage where they release unappetising sulphur compounds. Brussels sprouts are a winter vegetable, but they are brilliant on the barbie.
Zesty Maple Sprouts
For traditional roast dinners & festive feasts such as Thanksgiving & Christmas, this is my go-to sprout treatment – no fuss, just maximising the best of the brussels. Trim (& halve if large) 500g (1lb 2oz) sprouts & place in a small to medium saucepan with a lid that will fit the sprouts snugly. Add 2 tablespoons water, 50g (1¾ oz / 3 tbsp) butter, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest & sea salt to taste. Cover & bring to the boil over a high heat, then stir & reduce to a simmer. Keep covered & cook, stirring gently two or three times, until the sprouts are bright green & tender throughout, about 5-7 minutes. Lift the sprouts out of the pan with a slotted spoon into a warm serving dish & cover. Place the pan with the juices back over a medium-high heat & reduce for a couple of minutes until thickened, then pour over the sprouts & serve immediately.
Trim the sprouts & stab each one all over a few times with the end of a skewer. Place in a bowl & drizzle over some soy sauce & toss. Leave for a few minutes. Thread the sprouts onto skewers through the base. Brush all over with olive oil. Cook over hot coals or gas flames, turning occasionally, until slightly charred & just tender.
Balsamic Parcel Sprouts
Trim the sprouts & halve if large, leave whole if small. Make a parcel by folding up the edges of a double or triple-layered square of foil. Place the sprouts in it, drizzle with balsamic vinegar & olive oil & season with sea salt & black pepper. Toss to coat. Scrunch the parcel to seal, allowing a little space for them to steam within. Place the parcel on the grill over hot coals or gas flames for about 5-10 minutes, until the sprouts are steaming, bright green & tender. The parcel can also be baked in the oven at 220C/220CFan/Gas7 for 15 minutes or until the sprouts are tender.
Cheesy Leeks by Ed Smith
from These Delicious Things by Jane Hodson, Lucas Hollweg and Clerkenwell Boy (Harper Collins)
Photography: Tara Fisher & Patricia Niven
My childhood wasn’t quite a “shelling peas on nonna’s knee” cliché. I got into cooking because I realised that if I helped Mum make Sunday lunch, it would be my brothers (and Dad) on washing-up duty. Other regular visitors to our table were: spag bol; chilli con carne (same as spag bol, plus kidney beans and not much chilli powder); and cottage pie (spag bol, plus mashed potato.) It must be the same for many children of 1980s Britain.
However, I also fondly remember “cheesy leeks”: blanched leeks buried beneath a béchamel blanket. I can picture a large, rectangular Pyrex dish of them sitting in the middle of the plastic tablecloth, with a tray of baked potatoes providing enough ballast to shut up four hungry boys.
This is basically that dish… although I’m fairly sure Mum didn’t use Alpine cheese. It’s excellent alongside pork and lamb, roast chicken, beef, squash and aubergine, too. Enjoy with a sharply dressed bitter-leaf salad and boiled new potatoes.
3 trimmed leeks (about 400g)
25g plain flour
300ml whole milk
½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp flaky sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
60g Alpine cheese (Comté, Gruyère), grated
60g breadcrumbs from sourdough or similar
1 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Cut the leeks into 3cm thick rounds and plunge into cold water, to wash away any mud. Transfer to the pan and gently simmer until just tender (6-8 minutes), then drain.
Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter over a low-medium heat, add the flour and stir in. Continue to stir until the paste slackens (but doesn’t colour), then whisk in the milk 2-3 tablespoons at a time, ensuring it’s absorbed before adding the next load.
Cook the white sauce for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken. Add the mustard, salt, pepper and two thirds of the cheese. Stir until melted, then remove from the heat.
Arrange the leeks in any ovenproof baking dish in which they fit snugly in one layer – probably with ¾–1 litre capacity. Pour the cheese sauce over them. Mix the breadcrumbs with the oil, then scatter them over the cheesy leeks. Finish with the rest of the grated cheese.
When ready to eat, bake for around 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 8, until bubbling and golden brown.