In conversation with Raf Epstein, ABC Radio Drive, 27 Jun 2017
Seasonality: Brussels Sprouts are a winter wonder, growing like tight little cabbage buds on a giant central stem so curious that the image alone could inspire even the fussiest of eaters to give them a go (google it!).
What to look for: Just like the buds of any flower, these sprouts are best bought when bright green and tight to touch, with no yellowy bits or discolouration. Fear not if you see a couple of bug bites in the outer leaves, though – what’s good for the bugs to eat is good for us, too! There should be no strong odour from them, and the bottom bits should be light in colour (the darker these are, the more time they’ve had to oxidise off the stem).
Varieties to look out for: There are over a hundred Brussels sprout varieties, and more being spliced, in a bid to bloom the sweetest sprout for our sugar-centric palates. I get most excited when I see baby brussels sprouts, which tend to be less bitter than their fully grown counterparts and look gorgeous grilled as part of a big share-table spread.
How to store: Sprouts are on the more forgiving side of brassicas, and can last around a week if super fresh and kept properly. Store in a plastic bag in the crisper bit of your fridge, but try not to fully seal the bag – the gases they emit will make them go off quicker if they can’t escape a little.
How to cook: As with most green stalky vegetables, I’m most excited to see some burnt bits. The easiest way to achieve this is by slicing them in half lengthways, and then roasting with plenty of olive oil, salt flakes and spices. Shaving raw Brussels sprouts through salads is always a hit too, especially through coleslaw. If you’re in a rush, blanch your sprouts in boiling salted water for about a minute or so (until vivid green and slightly softened) – this is much better than the old-school version of boiling the flavour out of them for 20-odd minutes. I like to steam my sprouts before finishing in a super hot pan to help colour them – that way I get the sweetness of caramelisation along with the delightful yield of a fully cooked sprout.
Complementary pairings: Anchovies, Bacon, Butter, Cheese (especially cheddar, blue and parmesan), Chillies, Cream, Curry Powder, Garlic, Lemon (especially zest), Pepper.
© 2017 Alice Zaslavsky