Long relegated to the Christmas table, Brussels sprouts have a dreadful reputation. Like miniature versions of the common cabbage, they grow on large stalks and have a sweet, nutty flavour, which some people can find too pungent. But, treated with a touch of love and care, these little buds can become a firm winter favourite.
Brussels sprouts should have tight compact heads and no sign of wilting; the stalks should look moist and freshly cut.
Contrary to popular opinion, Brussels sprouts do not benefit from having a cross cut into the bottom of them. Instead of helping them to cook evenly, the cross can make the sprouts waterlogged. Instead, cut sprouts in half, or just pop them into the pan as they are.
Try Brussels sprouts shredded, either eaten raw in a salad or flash-fried with bacon and plenty of butter or a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche. Throw in some chestnuts for a particularly seasonal treat that’s a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast. Or blanch whole sprouts briefly in boiling water, douse in cream and bake in the oven for a luxurious gratin. Leftovers make delicious bubble and squeak. Mix the Brussels sprouts with mashed potato, shape into little patties and fry until golden-brown. Top with a poached egg for a simple brunch.