Our latest recipe in Sherborne Times on pages 54-55
One of my earliest food memories is of watching my great grandmother, Ada, who I would call ‘Grannie Allen’, prepare the Brussels Sprouts for our Sunday lunch. On the farm, our midday meal was known as dinner. Possibly because it was a substantial two course hot meal that was cooked and served at one o’clock every day. Sunday was always a roast, usually chicken (my favourite) or lamb which I disliked. There were always at least five vegetables as well as potatoes. We were fortunate.
Ada was a frugal cook, this skill was learnt during the war years when she ran a cafe in Poole with her partner Bill. She could carve ham as thin as you like and the sprouts were prepared with the same meticulous care. Removing the minimum of outer leaves which would be saved in an old bucket that was place on the floor put ready to feed the hens, whilst Ada would cut a neat cross on each tiny brassica, as if sealing it with a delicate kiss.
I would watch her intently leaning forward on the kitchen table, whilst tipping backwards and forwards on my stool, until my Grannie Bob, Ada’s daughter, would scold me and tell me to stop. At this stage it was probably time for me to help lay the table or go and feed the birds. So that they could have some peace and quiet and Ada could have her bottle of Guinness, which she said was the secret to her 97th year.
Seasonal Treats for December
Love them or hate them, there is no denying that sprouts are good for us. They contain iron and potassium and as long as they are not overcooked, they taste delicious. To enjoy them at their freshest try and buy them whilst still on the stalk at the farmers market or greengrocer. For a winter salad, cut them into quarters and steam gently to serve with mizuna and rocket, drizzled with olive oil and toasted pine nuts or shred finely and stir fry with crushed garlic and lardons of bacon. Brush with rapeseed oil and roast in a hot oven for 15 minutes until caramelised and tender, or braise with cream and Dijon mustard to serve with pork.
Alternatively opt for a more traditional recipe and cook for no more than four minutes in a large pan of salted water brought to a rolling boil before quickly adding the sprouts and continue to boil with no lid. Serve with cooked chestnuts and sage butter. brush with rapeseed oil and roast in a hot oven for 15 minutes until caramelised and tender, or braise with cream and Dijon mustard to serve with pork.
These pale but sweet roots are usually roasted and the natural sugars will ensure that they caramelise beautifully, but for the ultimate treat I love a parsnip puree that has been enriched with double cream infused with bay and nutmeg. Or try partnered with garam masala, softened onions and a homemade chicken stock to make a warming soup for a satisfy lunch.
Whether you are serving goose or turkey this Christmastime, red cabbage is now at its best can be easily prepared ahead of time and reheated when required.
Pickle to serve with your cold cuts on boxing day or cook gently with apple for a vegetable dish that can be prepared well ahead of time and reheated when needed. Alternatively slice thinly to add to an eating apple or two and some grated carrot for a winter slaw that can be dressed just moments before you serve.
Braised Red Cabbage
1 small red cabbage finely sliced
1 large onion chopped
1 large Bramley apple peeled cored and chopped
1 tbsp red wine or cider vinegar
1 tbsp black treacle
Seasoning to taste
In a large pan melt the butter over gentle heat, add the onions and allow to sweat for a few minutes. Add the cabbage and apple. mix well and add the sugar and vinegar. Cover pan tightly and cook over a low heat or a low oven until the cabbage is tender, about 1½ hours.