Monday, August 08, 2011

Conversion by Recipe.

Many of us have had our opinions on a particular foodstuff or dish changed by a different method of cooking or presentation. I am not fond of okra, for example, (don’t shoot me down, okra-lovers), but I was recently faced with some dried pods served alongside some peanuts and accompanied by a gin and tonic. They were delicious – perhaps for me, because the ‘slimyness’ which I dislike was completely and utterly absent.

Many of you dislike Brussels sprouts. Personally, I find this hard to understand, as I think they are delicious (unless they are very old and very overcooked, which no vegetable should ever be.) This post is my attempt prove that conversion to enjoying them is possible, because others have been converted.  

Firstly though, I want to remind you that Brussels sprouts, along with cauliflower and cabbage are simply different cultivars of the same plant -  Brassica oleracea. In the case of the cauliflower, as the name suggests, the flower of the plant dominates; in the case of the Brussels sprout, it is the buds in the axils of the leaves which become our dinner-table vegetable. Brussels sprouts were available in England in the eighteenth century, but did not become common for two centuries, hence the dearth of recipes for them until relatively recent historical times.

The Melbourne newspaper The Argus gives us two stories about Brussels sprouts in the nineteen forties, which are our examples of conversion by recipe.

Firstly, from the Argus of July 31, 1945, the following snippet:

As Brussels sprouts is another vegetable I eat chiefly beause it is good for me, I was most grateful for his recipe for Devilled Brussels Sprouts, as was my family when I set the dish before them.
Take 2 lb Brussels sprouts, ½ cup butter or margarine, 2 teaspoons prepared mustard, ¾  teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce, a dash of cayenne.
Cook sprouts until tender in about an inch of salted boiling water.
Meanwhile melt butter in a saucepan, add remaining ingredients.
Drain the sprouts; place in a hot vegetable dish and pour the sauce over all.

And from The Argus July 17, 1945:

The Earl of Rosebery couldn't bear Brussels sprouts  - the only way he would eat them was:
Sprouts with Chestnuts
To a pound of sprouts allow ½ lb chestnuts.
Cook: Boiling is good or they can be put into the oven-chestnuts.
Boil sprouts and drain. Then put both into a saucepan with a little butter and seasoning. This is a delicious dish, said Mrs Jenkins. I can bear her out – it is.

(We had a recipe for the Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts in a previous post here

Quotation for the Day.
A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.
P. J. O'Rourke (1947 - )


Anonymous said...

Merciful Heavens! That devil sauce would make bin bags edible, let alone Brussels sprouts.

I always find your posts to be interesting.

Lawrence in Ohio (United States)

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Lawrence. You are absolutely right, of course. I love devilled anything, although i have not tried devilled bin bags so far.

ACravan said...

This is a nice thing to read upon rising in southeastern Pennsylvania after a weekend of horrible news. (I'm leaving the tv switched off until Christmas, I think.) We love Brussels sprouts here. In the February 2008 Gourmet, a chef named Ian Knauer published a simple and delicious carrots and Brussels sprouts recipe (the other ingredients were shallots, butter, cider vinegar and water), which I would be happy to pass along if you're interested. It's a winter staple in our house. Caroline and I like okra quite a bit, but our daughter Jane (almost 14) is still difficult with most vegetables except pickled okra, which I think you would like because it's utterly un-slimy. Pickled okra in both spicy and mild varieties is very popular in the American south. It's also a beautiful plant to grow. Curtis Roberts

Fay said...

I shall write an ode to okra and other maligned mucilaginous vegetables. I love tempura okra.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Curtis. Thanks for all your recent comments - I am gradually catching up with everyone, I think.
I would love the recipe you mentioned - please do send it.
My own daughter is now in her thirties and a vegetable fanatic, but in her teens she was very picky! It is interesting now seeing her encouraging her two year old to eat up his veggies - which he does -so far!
No doubt your daughter will be the same - being anti-veg can be a form of rebellion if your parents are pro-veg! :)

ACravan said...

Here's the Ian Knauer recipe from Gourmet. It's simple, excellent and can be served with roast chicken, pork chops or enjoyed on its own on toast for breakfast (I like that):

Carrots and Brussels Sprouts Gourmet | February 2008

"Who knew? These two humble winter staples actually have a natural affinity, playing off each other's best qualities.

Makes 6 servings

Ian Knauer

2 tablespoons chopped shallot (from 1 medium)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lb carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Cook shallot in 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add carrots, Brussels sprouts, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add water and cover skillet, then cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in vinegar, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cooks' note: Vegetables can be cut 1 hour ahead and kept at room temperature."


Keith said...

Must admit it took me a while to get into Okra, but it grew well in the Territory so we ate it. I love brussel sprouts, all greens in fact. My boys grew up eating our home grown food as did I, so they never had a dislike for greens.
Armidale NSW.

Marion Diamond said...

I like Brussels sprouts, but wouldn't cross hot coals for them. But we used to have a dog, a blue heeled, who ADORED them. Now why? She seemed to love the bitter flavor, but was fond of brassicas generally.
Enjoy your site.