When is a sprout not a sprout?
- 11 Dec 06, 11:26 AM
When is a sprout not a sprout? The answer appears to be when it comes in my family’s organic box. Take a look at the picture and then read the blurb that came with this week’s cache of vegetables.
“There is a new vegetable in town: the oh-so-cool sprout top. It’s the brassica du jour, found on the menu of quite a few fashionable eateries in England. It will be gracing some of you with its exclusive presence this week and is quite simply the vegetable to be eating this season!”
The missive from Abel and Cole goes on to distinguish the sprout top - “the sweet and tender tip of the Brussels sprout plant” - from the actual sprouts which apparently come from lower down the stalk of the same plant.
I’m sure that whoever writes the company’s weekly newsletter had their tongue at least partially in their cheek as they wrote this eulogy to the country’s least-loved vegetable. But I am not going to risk a fashion faux pas with the family’s Christmas fare, so Ned, the Newsnight Turkey, will be garnished with only the very finest organic sprout tops.
I can’t blame Abel and Cole for trying to make the much-maligned sprout seem a little, well, sexier. I quite like the things (wherever on the stalk they come from) but my wife Bee is not so keen. My suggestion of "sprout au gratin" for tonight’s dinner did not go down well.
But I am going to have to start getting very inventive with my veg come January because that’s when I begin my new diet. And grating a bit of cheese on top is not going to be option because – as some of you will already know – I am going vegan for a month.
Right at the start of the Ethical Man experiment I asked for suggestions of “devilishly difficult tasks”. I’ve been studiously ignoring the torrent of emails from viewers who insist that the only truly ethical diet is meat and dairy free. Unfortunately my producer Sara hasn’t. She says the time has come to check out their claims.
I’ve got a feeling this is going to be the toughest challenges yet – tougher than stopping flying or giving up the car. I mentioned my worries to my friend Trish, one of the finest cooks I know. She has very kindly prepared a special vegan cookbook for me in a ring binder, and to get me started she’s put in a dozen of her favourite vegan dishes.
I challenge even the most blood-thirsty carnivore not to be tempted by Trish’s Butternut Squash Pilaff with Fruit and Nuts, her Red Curry with Cashews or her warming Winter Soup.
So here’s a deal for you. I’ll tell you how to make one of Trish’s top treats if you’ll send me your absolute favourite vegan recipe. If I get just one great meal from twenty of you then my meat and dairy free month will be a breeze. And not only that, I’ll have something to cook for Trish to pay back for her favour.
So here goes…
Trish’s Butternut Squash Pilaff with Fruit and Nuts
600g butternut squash (approx 1 small one)
pinch of saffron (optional)
500ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
50g Brazil nuts, halved lengthways
200g mixed basmati and wild rice
50g semi-dried cherries
handful of fresh chives
Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds. Peel, then cut the flesh into bite-sized chunks. Add the saffron to the hot stock and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the sage leaves, Brazil nuts and rice and fry for a further 2-3 minutes to coat in the oil. Stir in the squash, cherries and saffron stock, then season and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice and squash are tender.
Reserve three chives and snip the remainder into the pilaff. Stir well, then taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Pile the pilaff onto a platter or serving dish and serve garnished with reserved chives.
And while you are stirring your pilaff reflect on this: a cow burps and farts hundreds of litres of methane every day. Apparently a really bilious beast can produce an astonishing 500 litres of the stuff.
Methane, as every would-be ethical man or woman will surely know, is 23 times as powerful a global warming gas as carbon dioxide. Which makes this country’s two million-strong herd a major source of greenhouse gases. Indeed, our bovine buddies are reckoned to account for 3% of the UK total, according to one estimate.