Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 1200s in what is now Belgium. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the sixteenth century they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.
If I had paused to think I would have assumed that a brussels sprout is plucked from the soil like a potato. But in fact they grow on a stalk.
Kind of bizarre isn't it?
Most of us have had a Bad Brussel Sprout Experience. Overcooking them turns them murky pond green (and chemically makes them release a kind of suphury chemical), and noone wants to eat that.
I think one of the problems is their creepy mini cabbage shape. The two recipes below bring out a slight bitter sweetness (if such a thing is possible). And also involve changing the shape of the sprout.Sauteed Brussels sprouts
This is from Karen Martini's book Where the Heart is. It is the best way to eat brussels sprouts I am yet to discover.
Enough brussels sprouts for two (about 8 or 10)
One clove of garlic, sliced.
Three tbs olive oil
1/2 cup thickened cream
3 tbs butter
some chopped chervil
Salt and pepper
Trim the sprouts and slice vertically (about 2 or 3 mm thin). Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the sprouts, garlic and some sea salt for about three minutes. You may need longer. They should become shiny but retain their bright green colour. Add the cream, butter and chervil and cook for about 4 more minutes. The dish should be creamy and not dry.
Lovely with a roast.
This is my mother's recipe, originally from Vivienne De Stoop a Melbourne cook from the 1960s.
3/4 kilo (about 1 pd) brussel sprouts
1 brown onion
50 g butter
1/2 litre chicken stock
1/2 litre water
salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
grated gruyere cheese
2 slices of ham
1/2 cup thickened cream
Melt butter in large pot, dice onion and toss in the butter until opaque. Add prepared sprouts to pot (by which she means trimmed and cut in half or quarters) and keep tossing. Put in water, salt and peper and cover and cook for 40 minutes. Puree (I use a stick vitamiser). Check seasoning then add cream and warm gently. Just before serving add lemon juice, ham and sprinkle with cheese.