As I've probably mentioned on this blog before, Catherine and myself purchase our regular dosage of fruit and veg from an organic box scheme.
For those who have never come across them, basically you order a regular order for a specific box size and then wait and see what comes. We get a medium fruit and veg box delivered every two weeks from the Organic Delivery Company, and we've now been doing it for a couple of years.
Having the box has been great because it's broken us out of the routine of just buying the same old ingredients, and therefore the same old recipes, week in, week out. We now have a much more varied diet and have found some new classics for our home.
We've become more a tune to seasonal produce, and eat vegetables we would never have thought of before, like beetroot and squash. And I've finally started eating things that I wouldn't eat as a kid - celery, pears and cabbage were once pushed round the plate about twenty five years ago, and because of that I never bought them as an adult. Meanwhile Catherine's learned to love broad beans! Well, eat them at least...
Indeed there's just two items I won't eat. Grapefruit is the one that we always ask to be removed from the box as I just don't like the taste, and Catherine's not a huge fan either. And then there's bananas... what can I say about bananas other than... urgh... yuck... no... argh. Even the thought of them... oh I just can't say any more. At least Catherine likes the confounded things.
One of the most surprising transitions however has been to really like sprouts.
Or at least, sprouts I cook.
The problem is that sprouts have a bad press, pretty much because of those over-boiled horrible dark green things pretty much everyone has experienced at regular points in their lives, especially at Christmas. And hopefully my mum isn't reading this, but my mum did used to overcook them. The trouble is that overcooked sprouts taste rather bitter and it's easy to overcook the confounded things.
Through my own experimenting I've found the way I like them. The outer few layers of leaves should be peeled to reveal the light green, and larger sprouts should be cut in half. Then they are steamed with some salt and pepper in the steamer. After about five minutes, they should be softer but still have a bit of firmness, and the colour should be roughly the same. I got given some red Vietnamese pepper at Christmas and a couple of ground corns work fantastically in this recipe.
The results are lovely, which is handy as I tend to make too much.
However one of the problems with the box scheme is that we tend to get too many for the two of us. This is because we don't tend to have meals that require side dishes - I tend to cook more pastas, curries, stir fries and casseroles.
So it's meant being a bit more creative with the sprouts when we get them.
One method I tend to use when I have random veg is to soup it. In a copy of BBC Vegetarian Good Food Christmas I found a Brussels sprout soup, which I adapted to include a small amount of cheese as well. I suspect even the sound of this is most peoples idea of hell, but in reality is a beautiful, creamy and smooth soup that I adore eating. Sadly I can't find it on their website, however this version from Ready Steady Cook sounds like it should give a similar result - the version I use, uses milk rather than cream.
However there's only so much soup you need, and I was recently forced to be far more creative.
On a recent evening I was confronted with a fridge containing only a bit of red cabbage, onion, a few mushroom and lots of sprouts, I went hunting for some recipe ideas. I wanted something quick and simple. But what on earth to do?
Hmm, could there be some sort of sprout pasta I randomly thought? Nah. That would be madness! Who on earth would ever combine sprouts with pasta?
Still I diligently went on Google and lo, found there was some. Lots in fact.
I opted for Fettuccine with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts and rather nervously began cooking, replacing the fettuccine with tagliatelle, and adding some more of the ground red Vietnemese peppercorns and using the best quality extra virgin olive oil I own - a rather expensive one Catherine bought from Fortnum and Mason's for my birthday - it's light and nutty.
And what was the resulting pasta like?
It has a lovely, light fresh taste. The shredded sprouts were beautifully cooked - smooth and tasty - their nuttiness going well with the pine nuts, and well complimented by the olive oil. The red peppercorns gave a lovely gentle spiciness, which suggest to me the addition of a few chilli flakes would work nicely as well.
And most of all, I'm not joking when I say Catherine was hoping for more sprouts in the veg box so we could have it again.
It makes you think why such lovely recipes aren't better known. It's clearly down to the bad press sprouts have due to all that overboiling. However if you come at them with an open mind, then you'll find some brilliant food waiting for you to tuck into. Yum and indeed yum.