I love Christmas and the festive season. The colour, the joy, even the anticipation all more than make up for some of the stress and inconvenience of the preparations for the big day.
Just today I was on the bus to Lewisham to get a last minute.... correction: last second present for Him Indoors. Sadly, the strain of the season has become all a bit too much for two Catfordites. They were screaming and shouting various profanities and telling each other to "shut up". The exasperated driver, after putting up with nearly 5 minutes of this nonsense, told them he'd taken enough and that they should both shut up. The nice lady who had moved seats to let me sit down shook her head gently, softly saying "What part of this was necessary? It's Christmas Eve. It's all supposed to be about having fun." Wise word indeed, which I took with me on my last smash and grab mission of advent. I remained Zen for the whole trip.
One thing I don't like about Christmas, however, has always been Brussels sprouts. It's the horrid school dinner way they get cooked. You know, cross in the bottom, to completely ensure total overcooking.... sprouts emerging from green boiling water, looking as grey as my oldest pair of M&S knickers (which once were white). The kitchen smelling strangely of old damp socks.... it's all too much!
But Brussels sprouts are part of the Great British Christmas, aren't they? They're not negotiable. A Crimbo quid pro quo, if you will. So, for years I compromised. I would have a single sprout "because it's Christmas". In amongst all the other treats and goodies, the single sprout was something I could put up with.
This year, however, it was time for things to change. Many of the food fans and cooking experts I follow on twitter extol the virtues of the little green mini-cabbage. They told me that I didn't need to have soggy sprouts. There was life beyond the grey squelchy mush.
I was recently sent some pickled goods by the people at Garner's. They make hand packed jars of pickles in Scotland. Pickled onions, that great Christmas staple, pickled shallots and spiced pickled cabbage.
I got to think, if I don't mind cabbage, as long as it isn't overcooked, why not treat sprouts the same way?
Here, therefore is my idea for a vegetable side dish for your Christmas dinner. Chances are you have most of the ingredients at home already if you've done your food shop. If not, there aren't many ingredients, so you can grab them in your own last second dash around.
|My jar of spiced pickled cabbage|
I drained and rinsed the cabbage before using as I thought the vinegar might overly sour the whole dish:
Brussels sprouts stir fry with Garner's spiced pickled cabbage, chestnuts and bacon
Serves 3-4 as a side dish for a main meal
Serves 4-6 as a second veg dish as part of a roast
32 brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthways
1/2 red onion, cut into thin chunks
1 sprig rosemary, stems removed and roughly chopped
4 tbsp Garners pickled spiced cabbage, drained and rinsed
75g smoked lardons
1-2 tbsp olive oil
14 cooked chestnuts, halved
|I used tinned chestnuts|
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry your onions for 3-5 minutes so that they start to soften.
Meanwhile, put a steamer on the hob, with a little water. Get to the boil. Steam the Brussels sprouts for 2 minutes. (Or steam in the microwave)
Add the lardons and rosemary, fry for another 3 minutes.
Take your sprouts off the heat, and away from the boiling water. Remove the lid so that they don't continue cooking.
Now add the cabbage, sprouts and chestnuts. Stir fry, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes. Try the sprouts to make sure they get to the texture you like them at. We liked ours "al dente".
Serve with your Christmas dinner, or as we did, as a side dish to some lovely lamb cutlets.
Thanks to the people at Garner's for sending me a sample. I have not been paid or sponsored to write this post.