Some foods are just synonymous with traditional Christmas dinner – roast turkey, bread sauce and of course the little green powerhouse that is the brussels sprout! Love them or hate them, the meal is not complete without at least one small green ball decorating the plate.
Whilst for some, Christmas Day is the only time of the year that a sprout with pass their lips, I personally love them, and quite happily eat them any time of the year. Thought to originate from Belgium (hence the name), seasonally brussels sprouts are a winter veg in the West, best between October to March. Whilst growing, they prefer colder temperatures – I did manage to find some sprouts in the shops in Bangalore,as there can be cooler temperatures in this area of India during winter. Small, hard bullets with yellowy leaves on the outside, they just weren’t right, so apart from the one Christmas dinner I cooked (never again – too hot!!), the sprouts were generally avoided. So it was with great joy that I tucked in to beautifully crisp green sprouts on Christmas Day this year, and started remembering all the dishes I could create with them.
When your mum told you to eat your greens because they were good for you, she was not wrong. Brussels sprouts are classified as crusiferous vegetables (so called as the leaves open up into a cross shape – crucifer is cross-bearer in Latin don’t you know!), a group packed full of powerful nutrients and antioxidants that can boost your immune system and have anti-cancer properties. The high fibre content is not only good for your digestion but helps to lower cholesterol as well. They also have a variety of vitamins including folate which promotes healthy heart, vitamin A and vitamin K which helps to reduce inflammation and is good for bone health too. Mind you, too much of any one thing is never good for you, as this salutary tale about a man who messed up his blood clotting by eating too many sprouts! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-20805966.
Cruciferous vegetables like sprouts contain special compounds called isothiocyanates (ITC) that boost immunity – these are released when the cell walls are opened. So cutting or blending before cooking releases these extra goodies and whilst some of the vitamins and potassium will be lost in the cooking process, the ITC will still be there. So, whilst a spout smoothie really doesn’t appeal, sliced brussels stir fried or chopped and used as soup certainly does.
Brussels sprouts fried with bacon is a beautifully tasty dish, but as I’m only eating plant based food these days, that’s off the menu. But sprout soup is definitely on. If you’ve never tried it, do – it’s really simple and has a delicious deep, rich flavour. Unfortunately, my sprout soup recipe is still boxed up in storage ( I can’t wait to get my hands on my recipe books!). Lots of recipes ask for cream, but being dairy free, I leave the potato to do the creamy bit which of course makes it much healthier. It needs seasoning well, but it’s very simple, so here it is from memory….hope it works!!
Green and healthy brussels sprout soup
1 tbspoon olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 medium potato, diced
500g or so of brussels sprouts
600mls of vegetable stock
1 tspoon thyme
salt and pepper
Remove the top of the sprouts and chop. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion until it starts to soften, then add the potato, turn down the heat and cover the pan with a lid, letting the veg cook until it’s soft. Add the chopped sprouts and thyme and saute for a minute or so. Pour in the stock, season and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, pop on the lid and leave to simmer away merrily for 10 to 15 minutes until the potato and sprouts are cooked. Turn off the heat, leave to cool a bit then blitz in the blender until smooth. Put back in the pan and reheat. Sprinkle some toasted chopped walnuts on the top if you want some texture.