I don’t know about you, but to me the brussel sprout has always been a vegetable best avoided at all costs. It was the nemesis of many a small child and adult alike, usually presented as a flaccid pile of watery green mush, served in school or corporate canteens. It had to be endured on your plate at Christmas time and no amount of mashed potatoe or gravy could disguise the awful bitter taste or its anti-social side effects.
Lately the brussel sprout has seen a bit of a renaissance, thanks in part to the fact that it is one of the most hardy crops that can be grow in the British Isles but also because it is a great first grower in edible gardens and allotments for those returning to the post war days of grow your own.
The Flower Sprout, a product of ten years hard work and tender loving care by the Surrey based Tozer Seeds company, is a sight to behold. You could say that it has inherited only the most desirable elements from its parents, the curly kale and the humble brussel sprout. Imagine a very tiny cabbage, the tiny bud strewn with flashes of rich purple and edged with green frilly leaves. The beauty of this new vegetable evolution is that it was done using traditional methods and not a genetically modified gene in sight.
The creation of this new vegetable is a manifestation of the alchemy of the artisanal grower. The true artisan knows that the inventions and innovations he is creating today will become a commercial reality tomorrow, it is just going to take time and he is prepared to work hard and wait. What an inspirational achievement.
The marvellous thing about the Flower Sprout is that it tastes so much less bitter than its parents and I predict it will face much less rejection at Christmas this year, particularly amongst children.
Marks and Spencer are selling their first crop this week on a two punnets for £3 deal, so if you have spring in your step head over to one of their shops and give the flower sprout a try.
So how did I cook mine?
My quick and easy pious broth – chicken and brussel sprout recipe
I braised chicken thighs in a vegetable and white wine stock with carrots, celery, bacon and roasted garlic for 25 minutes. I then added sliced courgettes and the flower sprouts and let simmer until tender. I finished the dish off before serving with a drizzle of French olive oil, freshly chopped lemon thyme and fresh garden mint. The full recipe is below, and it’s title is “Pious Broth”
Vive la Renaissance! How will you cook yours?
4 Skinned and boned chicken thighs cut into quarters
2 sticks of celery
1 pint of vegetable stock with a good slug of white wine
5 chantenay carrots thinly sliced
2 strips of chopped streaky bacon
1 large courgette thinly sliced
2 or 3 cloves garlic (preferably roasted in the oven)
2 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
a head of garden mint leaves, chopped
a small handful of garden thyme, chopped
Warm ciabatta or French bread.
1. Into a medium saucepan drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil and fry the chicken thighs until just turning golden. You do not want to seal them completely because you want to infuse the flavours of the garlic and oil into the meat.
2. Add the bacon and cook until golden.
3. Add the carrots, celery, courgette and stock and bring up to a rolling boil. Turn down to a simmer. The stock should just cover the ingredients, not drown them like a soup. Add the roasted garlic cloves.
4. Simmer for 20-25 mins, then add the flower sprouts and continue to simmer until the meat is tender. The sprouts should still be bright green.
5. When the meat is tender, take off the heat and add the herbs, stir and ladle into bowls. Drizzle with the remaining oil.
6. Serve with a light warm bread like a ciabatta or French stick but don’t be tempted to butter if you do you won’t get the fresh clean taste of the meal.
With a pious broth you don’t add any salt or pepper to the dish during cooking its instinctive that we do but try it without and see how much flavour comes out.