I’m no dissenter. I love sprouts. I love ’em the right way; hot, emerald and still with a bit of bite. I love ’em the wrong way; hot, khaki and with no bite at all. I also love them the very wrong way; left to go cold and eaten with coagulated bread sauce in a sarnie. Yum.
That doesn’t mean that sprouts are good for all occasions. They’ve got a distinctive taste, which is designed to ward predators off, and succeeds in many cases (see interesting article in the Times a couple of years ago). So they won’t work for sproutophobes and they won’t go with just anything – even if Christmas is coming and the wallet’s getting thin. Sprout curry (which I’ve sampled in a college canteen) isn’t great. Similarly if you’re out in a gang for your Christmas party its not generally good to put sprouts on pizzas or, as I had last night, as the vegetarian option with vegetable lasagne, roast potatoes and pork (!) sausages wrapped in bacon.
Perhaps its the cold getting to their brains, but there’s something about Christmas that seems to grab hold of cooks and freezes any good sense they might normally have. Which is a shame, because seasonal food in December can be great. You’re almost guaranteed to wind up with something warm, sweet and comforting. Add dried fruits, booze, cream or nuts and there’s so much that can be done!
Even for veggies its not difficult – there are some fab bakes and pies to be had at this time of year. Try mushroom wellington, nut roast or making a lasagne like bake replacing the pasta with thin slices of parsnip. They’re all filling, seasonal, do well as christmas meals AND go with seasonal veg like baked cabbage, carrots and sprouts.
Here’s my tried and tested (if a bit slapdash) recipe for parsnip bake, which is a New Year’s fave here.
Clay Earth Cafe Parsnip bake (feeds 5 ish)
- 1 large parsnip
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 tin (c. 450ml) tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 celery stick
- 2 slices of bread (firm enough to grate)
- ingredients for c. 3/4 pint really cheesy cheese sauce
- Saute the onion in a saucepan
- Finely chop the celery, and grate the carrot and add to the onion until it starts to soften
- Chop tomatoes (if whole) and add to pan with the puree – season to taste and cook on low until task no. 8
- Put oven on a medium heat
- Skin and chop the parsnip into manageable blocks, cut these into thin slices
- Make up your cheese sauce
- Grate up your bread and put in the oven for a 5-10 minutes until crisp
- Make up lasagne like layers: carrot mix, parsnip, cheese sauce parsnip.
- Top with the crunchy breadcrumbs.
- Bake for approximately 40 minutes