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Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have a pronounced and sweet nutty flavor, quite unlike cabbage, although the two are closely related. They are traditionally served at Christmas with chestnuts and indeed have a definite affinity for certain nuts - particularly the sweet flavored nuts, example almonds pair well rather than hazelnuts or walnuts.

History : Brussels sprouts were cultivated in Flanders (now Belgium) during the Middle Ages. They are basically miniature cabbages which grow in a knobbly row on a long tough stalk. The Germans call sprouts rosenkohl - rose cabbage - a pretty and descriptive name as they look like small rosebuds.

Buying and Storing : Buy Brussels sprouts as fresh as possible as older ones are more likely to have that strong unpleasant "cabbage" flavor. They should be small and hard with tightly wrapped leaves. Avoid any that are turning yellow or brown or have loose leaves. Brussels sprouts will keep for several days in a cool place such as a larder or salad drawer of a fridge, but it is far better to buy them as you need them.

Preparing : Cut away the bottom of the stalk and remove the outer leaves. Some people cut a cross through the bottom of the stalk although this is not really necessary. If you haven't been able to avoid buying big Brussels sprouts, cut them in half or into quarters, of slice them thinly for stir-frying.

Cooking : As with cabbage, either cook Brussels sprouts very briefly of braise slowly in the oven. Cook in small amounts of fast boiling water for about 3 minutes until just tender. To stir-fry Brussels sprouts, slice into three or four pieces and then fry in a little oil and butter - they taste great with onions and ginger.

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