The quintessential Christmas dinner veg, Brussels sprouts are thought to have been cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century, hence the name. Although they're related to cabbage (they even look like a miniature, compact version) they have a sweet, nutty flavour that some people find bitter. They grow in multiple rows along a thick central stalk.
Choose the best
Look for plump, bright-green heads (the smaller, the sweeter) with tightly packed leaves. If you can buy them still attached to their long central stalk, so much the better – they'll keep fresh for longer that way. The sprout tops at the tip of the stalk can also be prepared in a similar way to spring greens.
If the sprouts are still on the stalk, twist each one off, trim away any loose, yellow or damaged leaves and wash, then trim the base. Some people cut a cross in the base to make sure they cook evenly, but with smaller ones it's not necessary, as it can cause them to go mushy. Larger ones can be cut in half.
To boil, put into a pan with some salt, cover with boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook, covered, for 5-10 mins. They take 5-10 mins to steam. A sharp knife should easily go through the base then they are done, but with a little resistance. They should still feel firm to the touch.
To stir-fry, halve or slice finely and cook for about 10 mins. Sprouts cook very quickly, and if overcooked are quite unpleasant as they lose their sweetness, so test them regularly by piercing with a knife.
You can also eat sprouts raw – trim and finely slice them on a mandoline or with a sharp knife and fold through a creamy dressing or mayonnaise to make a winter slaw or salad.
In a dark, cool place or the fridge for up to four days.
Stir-fry in oil with onions and ginger, add to cooked chestnuts at Christmas, or boil until al dente (firm to the bite) and quickly pan-fry with diced pancetta and chopped garlic.
Try some of our delicious sprout recipes:
Brussels sprouts with hazelnut & orange butter
Smashed sprouts mash with chestnuts
Brussels sprouts with bacon & chestnuts
Charred Brussels sprouts with Marmite butter
Chilli charred Brussels sprouts
Use up Christmas leftovers with our video on how to make turkey bubble & squeak cakes: