Not-bitter, Beautiful Brussels Sprouts and Seeds
“If cabbage is the devil’s vegetable, then the Brussels sprout is Satan’s second cousin once removed. How many childhoods were blighted by cabbage and its diminutive relative?”William Sitwell, A History of Food in 100 Recipes
A lot of people, William Sitwell being a case in point, famously don’t like Brussels sprouts, but cooking them this way with seeds and butter gives them a rich, nutty flavour which reduces any bitterness, and also caramelises them slightly.
But in fact Brussels sprouts really are no longer bitter… Sitwell is harking back to the vegetable’s dark ages. According to Mental Floss, in the late 1960s the industry switched to mechanised harvesting – this needed a plant that matured evenly over the entire stem. Instead the machines harvested the easiest sprouts to pick, and these really were horribly bitter. Then in the 1990s, Hans van Doorn, a Dutch scientist, discovered exactly which chemical compounds in spruitjes (as they are called in The Netherlands) made them bitter. That enabled the seed companies to begin developing much less bitter varieties which were easier for the machines to harvest.
I can’t put my finger exactly on why Brussels sprouts go so well with frankfurters but they do. If you are having these sprouts as the accompaniment to another, quite rich dish – they go excellently with Venison Steaks with a Chocolately and Blackberry Sauce for example – the frankfurters would be a bit too much of a good thing.
But if you added them to the Brussels sprouts, and then served them with a fried egg, they would make a mighty good lunch.
Beautiful Brussels sprouts and seeds
- 1 frankfurter, sliced (optional – follow this link for what to do with the rest of the pack)
- Knob or two of butter
- 1 tbsp munchy seeds
- 100g/4 oz Brussels sprouts, quartered
- about ten grinds Indonesian long pepper and some smoked salt
- about fifteen grinds nutmeg
- Fry the frankfurter and the Brussels sprouts in a little butter until the edges of the frankfurter crisp up – about five minutes.
- Add the munchy seeds, the salt and pepper, nutmeg and a little more butter, fry for another minute.