Firstly, cooked sprouts should never have a pungent sulphurous smell – if they have, it’s because they’re overcooked. Same goes for the leaves – which should have a more delicate flavour and reduce to an almost silky texture…you might find even them a bit of a revelation, if you are a sprout-hater.
If you need another good reason not to cook the life out of them is because the sulphur smell is associated with glucosinolate sinigrin which is an organic compound linked to the reputed cancer-fighting characteristics of sprouts. These little cabbage like head and their leaves are incredibly good for you with more vitamin C than an orange and a host of other nutrients to help detox your system (essential through the party season).
Our Sussex sprouts are either grown outdoor in Worthing or biodynamically by Toos in Cuckfield – both equally fresh and delicious.
A bit of history here…sprouts were originally cultivated in Persia but brought to Europe by the Romans. They are only named Brussels Sprouts because the Belgians started commercially growing them in the 16th century. So, whilst we have been eating the sprout for a long time, the leaves were used as animal fodder or just discarded – until modern times as now they’ve been ‘discovered’.
Sprouts, along with cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, are part of the cruciferae, or mustard family. Cruciferae, because their flowers are in the shape of a cross – so probably that’s how they are part of our Christmas tradition?
Anyway, if you’re not a sprout fan, then don’t give up sprout tops as a bad job. Combined with nuts and a salty butter, their flavour blossoms..and if you are a meat eater, try adding a punchy chorizo or smoky bacon which really melts warmth into the dish.
This recipe adds a touch of citrus which enhances the velvety buttery nutty flavours. The butter works well with equally well with broccoli and the sprouts themselves.
Recipe: Sprout tops with browned butter and hazelnuts
- 75g shelled hazelnuts
- 1kg sprout tops
- 50g butter
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6 and bring a big pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 6 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool, then rub off any brown skins in a clean tea towel. Coarsely chop, then set aside.
To prepare the sprout tops, remove and discard the tough, larger leaves from the base of the stalks. Tear out the thick central ribs of the remaining leaves and tear each leaf into large pieces. This will leave about 500g. Drop into the boiling water, making sure they are submerged, then cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Drain well, then return to the pan.
Melt the butter in a small frying pan, then cook over a medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it’s golden brown and smells nutty. Tip the butter over the cooked sprout tops, add the hazelnuts, lemon juice, some salt and plenty of black pepper, then toss together well. Spoon into a warmed serving dish and serve.