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24 September 2014
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Christmas - Best of Brussels
Sprouts
Love 'em or hate 'em they're a must for xmas dinner
Love 'em or hate 'em - you just can't have Christmas dinner without having Brussels sprouts! The problem is they do tend to have unpleasant side effects on the digestive system... read on to find out how to cook your spouts without gassing your gran!
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FACTS

If you don’t like the smell of Brussels sprouts cooking, toss a couple of thick chunks of bread into the cooking water (bread slices sometimes dissolve and are hard to remove).

Alternatively toss a couple of red bell pepper pieces or a stick of celery into the pot. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve the pot sweeteners before serving the sprouts.

Brussels sprouts contain important phytochemicals that may help prevent age-related blindness caused by macular degeneration They're also packed with vitamins A and C, fibre, folate and magnesium.

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Storing
Don't wash or trim sprouts before storing them but you can remove any outer leaves that are yellow or wilted. If the outer leaves are green and healthy don't remove them as they contain the most nutrients. If you've bought sprouts in a cellophane-covered container, take off the wrapping and examine the sprouts, then return them to the container, re-cover with the cellophane, and store them in the fridge. Fresh Brussels sprouts will keep for three to five days. You can get tinned sprouts but nothing beats properly cooked fresh ones.

Preparing
Before cooking, rinse the sprouts in fresh water. Trim the stem ends, but not quite flush with the bottoms of the sprouts, or the outer leaves will fall off during cooking.

The tradition of cutting an X in the base of each sprout is now considered passe. This nick helped the heat penetrate the solid core so that the inside cooked as quickly as the leaves but this detracts from crunchiness of texture.

Blanching
Sprouts have an unfortunate reputation for causing flatulence.

This is because of their high content of carbohydrates, which are difficult for the body to digest. Microbes in our large intestine take advantage of the undigested carbohydrate and ferment it, producing large quantities of methane that escapes in the natural manner.

But you can make them easier on the system by blanching them first.

Before cooking, plunge them into boiling water for sixty seconds, then plunge them into freezing cold water (seriously - put ice cubes in it!) for sixty seconds. This will stop the cooking process immediately. You can leave them in the cold water until you're ready to cook them. Then cook as usual.


Sent by Dave Joynson, Audlem,
Nr Market Drayton

Cooking

The trick is to put them on to boil (or steam) at the last possible minute and to cook them briefly, so that their crispness is preserved.

To enliven plain boiled sprouts, melt a knob of butter among them and sprinkle over two teaspoons of soft brown sugar together with a generous grating of nutmeg. You might also like to try soured cream, lemon juice, flaked almonds or ground cloves. Who knows? With these additions, you might even get the kids to eat them.

To Boil

Bring the water to a rapid boil in a large pot, add the sprouts, and quickly return the water to a boil. Cook the sprouts uncovered just until tender.

Drain them, return them to the warm pot, and shake for a few seconds until dry. A little parsley added to the cooking water can reduce the cabbage flavour.

Cooking time: seven to 10 minutes.

To Braise
If you cook sprouts slowly in stock, you can reduce the liquid after the sprouts are done and use it to make the gravy. You can braise the sprouts on the stovetop in a heavy covered skillet, or put the sprouts in a casserole dish and cover with vegetable stock.

Cooking time: 25 to 35 minutes.

To Microwave:
Place 1/2 pound of Brussels sprouts in a microwavable dish add 1/4 cup of water or stock, cover, and cook.

Cooking times: for medium sprouts, four minutes; for large ones, eight minutes.

To Steam
Sprouts can be steamed in a vegetable steamer or steam-boiled in a small amount of water. These methods have the advantage of keeping the sprouts intact, minimising the chemical interactions that cause the sprouts to develop a strong favour, and maximising the retention of nutrients.

To steam-boil, add the sprouts to a small amount of boiling water and cover. Steam or steam-boil for one to two minutes, uncover the pot for a few seconds to disperse the strong-tasting sulphurous compounds that form when sprouts (and other members of the cabbage family) are cooking. Cover and finish cooking.

Cooking times: steam-boiling, five to 10 minutes; in a steamer, six to 12 minutes, depending on size.

Brussels sprouts with walnuts
Ingredients: Brussels sprouts, walnuts, olive oil.
Instructions: Heat oil in a small pan, break the walnuts into small pieces and add them to the oil Pour over steamed brussels sprouts and serve.

Brussels sprouts with chestnuts
Brussels sprouts and chestnuts are an excellent combination. This dish is a favourite served at Christmas along with the turkey.
Fresh chestnuts - 350g (12 oz)
Brussels sprouts - 700g (1½ lb)
Butter - 25g (1 oz)

Pre-heat oven to 200 °C / 400 °F / Gas 6.

With the point of a sharp knife make a small cut on the flat side of each chestnut. Bake the nuts in their skins for 20 minutes, then peel off the outer shall and the inner skin. They are easier to peel while hot.

Cook the Brussels sprouts in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, until just tender. Drain. Over a high heat, toss the chestnuts and Brussels sprouts with the butter, until the butter is melted. Serve immediately.
Recipe sent by David Kay, Whitchurch

Chef's Tip

To check whether the sprouts are perfectly cooked, insert a knife tip into the stem end. If they're cooked to perfection the base should be barely tender.

Merry Christmas
 
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