What’s naturally nourishing in….. December?

With Christmas on our doorstep, and some wonderful seasonal greens, here’s a healthy diet side dish that’s not just suitable for the Festive Feast, it’s great all through the winter for some serious nutrients, and uses the love-them-or-hate-them Marmite of greens – Brussels sprouts!

There’s no doubt about it, sprouts cooked properly are gorgeous green nuggets of deliciousness, and being basically miniature cabbages, they boast the broad vitamin and mineral range, especially high in manganese, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, A, C, B1, B2 and B6. As my regular readers will know, magnesium and B6 are hugely important in a happy brain!

What is less well known is that they contain a substance called sinigrin, which has been identified as having a protective effect against cancer, particularly lung cancer.

As with all foods, it’s their combined qualities which make the meals we eat synergistically powerful in preventing ill health. So, what goes with sprouts to amplify their effect and convert sprout haters to the wonderful flavour of these crucial little health weapons? A couple of tasty partners, and cooking tweaks, can make all the difference! In this case, leeks, mushrooms, bacon and a good dash of chicken stock, along with a steam fry method results in a beautiful dish bursting with benefits as well as flavour.

Bacon and Brussels Greens

This recipe doesn’t have specific quantities – the ratios and amounts are totally dependent on the number of people you want to serve, the number of other dishes, and the proportions you prefer between the different ingredients. Customise, experiment and make it your own!

Fresh (preferably local) Brussels sprouts, prepared and sliced
Mushrooms, sliced
Leeks, sliced
Unsmoked bacon (preferably organic and nitrate/nitrite free) cut into small pieces
1 garlic clove, crushed
Butter and rapeseed oil
Chicken stock
Seasoning to taste (at the end)

Melt a splash of rapeseed oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan or saucepan. Fry off the bacon for a minute then add the mushrooms, cooking on a medium to high heat for a couple of minutes to colour. Add the leeks, turning down slightly to a medium heat, continuing to cook for a couple more minutes, stirring to stop them burning. When the leeks are beginning to soften, add the sliced sprouts, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the crushed garlic, mix well, and pour in enough chicken stock to deglaze the pan (most of the water released by the veg should have cooked away at this point) Stir well, dissolving any caramelisation in the pan. Add another half a centimetre or so of stock to the pan, bring to a simmer, and steam the mixture, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the veg are tender but not too soft.
The stock should have reduced to a delicious glaze while contributing a rich backnote to the veg and bacon combination. If the stock reduces away before the veg is cooked, add a little more, but don’t swamp it – you want a glaze or slight sauce, not a stock broth! Season at the end to test how salty the bacon and stock make the final dish.
When all is tender, rich, and perfectly seasoned, serve to your expectant family without even mentioning sprouts, and watch them tuck in! Who could resist??