Best known for causing rifts at the Christmas dinner table between those who love them or loathe them, here are some ways to get the most out of sprouts without noticing…
Good news: Brussels sprouts are beneficial for your gut health meaning you won’t have to feel guilty about consuming all that food on Christmas Day, so long as you have sprouts somewhere on your plate.
Dr. Sunni Patel, Crohn’s warrior and gut-health scientist who founded website Dish Dash Deets says: “Love them or hate them, there is no denying the gut health benefits that Brussels sprouts can have on us, as well as how versatile they truly can be.
“Brussels sprouts are part of the brassica family along with cabbage, kale and broccoli. This family of leafy vegetables are rich in fibres such cellulose, hemicelluloses, and pectin as well as the phytochemical glucosinolates which provide fuel for the gut bacteria to help create short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) within the gut environment.
“Around 80g of sprouts (approximately seven sprouts) contribute to around 2g of fibre which counts towards our 30g daily recommended intake which can help to ensure adequate bowel movement and frequency. SCFAs, such as acetate, propionate and butyrate in turn are known to strengthen the gut barrier function and have several health benefits (supporting immunity, weight, glucose and cholesterol) that originate from the healthy balance of the gut bacteria.”
But we know it’s not as easy as that, as sprouts have always proved to be one of the most controversial dishes at the Christmas dinner table, with some guests loving them and others “accidentally” throwing them in the bin.
So, is there a way we can reap their benefits without actually noticing they’re there? Here are some innovative ideas to make sprouts a lot more user-friendly.
Even the fussiest of eaters can still make the most of sprouts this Christmas once they’ve followed a few simple rules.
- Don’t overcook them: Much of the controversy around sprouts can come from their smell, which often occurs because they’ve been overcooked. Sprouts should still be green and slightly crunchy when bitten into and don’t need much fuss over when they’re being cooked.
- Eat them raw: This isn’t one for the faint-hearted or for those who dread the thought of Christmas for fear of encountering one of these festive greens. But it doesn’t need to be a scary experience if we shred or tear them and mix them up with other greens or into a salad with things like grated carrot, beetroot, and spinach leaves.
- Don’t be bitter: Sprouts on their own can be extremely bitter and, if you’re not used to it, can be slightly offensive to the tastebuds. Instead, tone them down by mixing them with other festive flavours. We suggest things like bacon, pancetta, chestnuts or cranberry. Why not wrap some bacon or pancetta around the sprouts, roast them with some almonds or use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe above?
- Experiment: Most of the hate towards sprouts comes from their texture, so why not try cooking them using different ways to find your favourite. Tesco has compiled a handy guide here.
This farm shop in Dorset, who also run holiday lodges in the Scottish Highlands, suggest adding pre-cooked sprouts to your Christmas sandwiches. With other yummy ingredients including chicken, bacon, stuffing and cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts are a good way to add a bit of extra nutrition to any festive sandwiches.
You can also use any left over sprouts in a stir fry or even a salad – grate or chop them up and you’ll barely even know they’re there.
Recipe for success
If you’re more hands-on with your approach to food then this recipe that makes a savoury crumble using apples and sprouts may be for you.
Apple and Brussels sprout crumble
For the crumble:
- 150g plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 egg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 50g cheddar, cubed
- 60g cold salted butter, cubed
- 100g hazelnuts
For the filling:
- 1kg Brussels sprouts, trimmed and outer leaves discarded
- 500g apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 200g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- 50g cheddar, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Put the flour, egg, pepper, cheddar and butter in a bowl.
- Rub the butter into the other ingredients rapidly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Incorporate the hazelnuts and chill. Blanch the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling water for three minutes.
- Drain, refill the pan with fresh water and bring back to the boil. Boil the sprouts for 15 minutes.
- Arrange the apples and bacon in a gratin dish. Dot with butter and cheese, then sprinkle with the crumble.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crumble is golden. Before serving, grate a generous helping of cheddar over the dish while still piping hot.
Recipe from Crumbles by Sabrina Fauda-Role, published by Hardie Grant, £8.99. Photography by Akiko Ida.
Sprout about it
Some other top tips for enjoying them, according to Dr Sunni, include:
- Try them in several ways to add different textures: there is more to sprouts than just boiling them – raw and shaved in salads, or, stir-fried and roasted.
- They take on flavours extremely well – add spices like turmeric or tahini, or, add them to dips (queso dip is particularly good).
- Substitute or add them to other greens – they can help add a different layer of flavour to cabbage and other leafy greens. If you like bubble and squeak or fritters try adding some sprouts to the mix.
- Add other ingredients to bring out the best of sprouts: nuts, seeds and dried fruits like cranberries and goji berries.
Or you can drink it up
If you’re a fan of gin then we have some good news as Edinburgh-based Pickering’s Gin have brought back their Brussels Sprout Gin just in time for the festive season. It may not be a traditional gin flavour but gin is gin and Pickering’s do it well, so we know we’ll be in safe hands.
🟢🥬The sprout lovers have spoken! We're having to put a new batch of our Brussels Sprout Gin on today to meet demand!
The most misunderstood of vegetables, sprouts make for a herbaceous, savoury and surprisingly sweet tipple.
— Pickering's Gin (@pickeringsgin) November 16, 2020