There are many interesting ways to cook Brussels sprouts. And because they have such an intense flavour, both additional ingredients and cooking methods are often minimal. I am not alone in favouring the Brussels sprout when it is par-boiled and then stir-fried along with bacon. Simple! Yet it is transformed into a dish with a texture, taste and colour that is absolutely heavenly. You can choose to add complementary flavours such as garlic, onions, sage or nuts, but that is definitely a matter of personal choice rather than a necessity. Beyond this, there appears to be little consensus about the best way to handle the Brussels sprout. Most European countries seem to have traditional dishes that vary wildly, while contemporary suggestions include soups, salads and coleslaws.
But on this occasion – in the mood for comfort food – I have been intrigued by recipes which focus on cheese. Although it hadn’t occurred to me previously, it suddenly seems like an obvious (and surely very satisfying) pairing. The more unfussy recipes suggest a simple sauce flavoured with nutmeg, whilst others consider the bolder, stronger flavours of blue cheese – at the same time recognising that this might not be to everyone’s taste. Still surprised by my discovery of Brussels sprouts at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, I felt emboldened to attempt the latter, and have drawn on a Nigel Slater recipe for my final choice of dish, which I served as a main course along with some fresh pasta. I did, however, halve the amount of blue cheese suggested in his recipe, and add some ripe, creamy brie to pick up the slack. It remains a very rich dish, and although it was everything I hoped that it would be – flavoursome, soft, melting, intense – I’m inclined to serve it as an accompaniment in the future.
Recipe: Brussles sprouts baked with cheese
1 ½ lbs Brussels sprouts
3oz blue cheese
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
Handful of grated parmesan
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Remove any yellow or damaged leaves from the Brussels sprouts and cut each in half. When the water is boiling, add a pinch of salt, then the sprouts. Bring them back to the boil, and let them continue to boil for 3 minutes. Drain and put them into a shallow dish. Crumble the blue cheese and brie over the sprouts. Put the mustard in a jug and stir in the cream and milk, as well as some freshly ground black pepper. Pour this mixture over the sprouts and cheese, and scatter the grated parmesan over the top. Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, until the top is lightly coloured and the cream is bubbling.