Tag Archives: Bacon

Acceptable Ways With Sprouts

A Stalk of Sprouts

From Bleurgh to Bogies

“What’s the difference between Brussels sprouts and bogies?”, goes the old joke, (You can’t get kids to eat Brussels sprouts!), and for many years these particular little green balls have divided households, especially during the festive season.

In my house, tradition called for sprouts on the plate, even if the kids left them there. Every other year it was the subject of a running battle between  my grandmother and me. As a small child, I would absolutely refuse to eat them; boiled, as they were back then, with the mystifying cross cut in the base. A bit like I do now, my Gran abhorred food waste, and loathed the fact that the sprouts would sit, untouched, on my plate. Unlike me, Gran did not do creative things with leftovers. She would threaten to give me those emerald cannon balls for the next meal, and the next, thinking that I would capitulate at some point and eat them. I was made of much stubboner stuff, and we would grumble and mutter at each other, while the sprouts festered somewhere (usually in the dog).

Nowadays, boiling sprouts is no longer compulsory. I am still not going to plant these in favour of kale, cavalo nero, or purple sprouting broccoli; but if I am presented with a stalk, I will no longer stamp my feet and dig in my heels in a resolve not to get them down my gullet more steadfast than that shown by Gandalf when he faced down the Balrog.

Instead, I have learned that sprouts are better if they see minimal water during the cooking process, and that they should definitely never be allowed to boil in water for any length of time. Indeed, unless you are making a soup of leftovers (of which more later), it is probably best to keep them out of water altogether, after they’ve been washed.

Sprouts are actually delicious, delicate and tender when eaten raw, so they make lovely salads and coleslaws. I think I got this from Nigel Slater, but pomegranate and sprouts are a lovely match in a salad. The sprout tops are also great for this, as they are tender and not as powerful as their smaller, tighter offspring down the stalk.

Cooking them in fat – bacon fat or duck fat is always a winner. I have done a sort of confit with halved sprouts cooked slowly in duck fat, and plenty of  thyme, which is pretty good, but not for those looking after their cholesterol.

I also like covering halved sprouts with a cartouche and letting them steam in a cm or so of stock in the bottom of a pan, until the liquid is absorbed. Again, meat stock is better, I often use chicken or ham stock, but vegetable stock is also good for this, if you are a vegetarian. This will take about 5-10 minutes on a medium heat, providing the stock is at simmering point when you add it to the sprouts.

The recipe that I’m about to share is an obvious combination, but  it works so well. And you can make a great soup with the leftovers (which I’ll be sharing here soon).

I hope that you have a go with some of these ways to eat Brussels Sprouts. I hope that together we can banish emerald green christmas bombs forever and move towards many more acceptable ways. The only question is, how do you eat yours?

Stir Fried Sprouts

More Than Acceptable

Recipe: Stir Fried Sprouts

Ingredients

10 sweet chestnuts

100 g streaky bacon cut into lardons

400 g Brussels sprouts

A splash of water

Method

If you are using fresh chestnuts, then you will need to peel them, and take off the hairy coating. This is the best method that I have found for peeling them. Once they are peeled, chop them roughly.

In a large frying pan, gently fry the bacon on a low heat, to render off some of the fat, and until the lardons are crispy. Remove to a piece of kitchen towel. Unless your bacon has given off more fat than a duck might, try to retain as much of the fat as you can.

Meanwhile, halve the sprouts, then shred them thinly.

Fry off the chopped chestnuts, until they start to brown. Add the shredded sprouts, and stir until the green brightens a little. Do not let them catch, burnt cabbage is not pleasant. Add a splash of water, and allow it to steam off.

Return the bacon to the pan, and mix well. Serve immediately with a big roast. This year we had a gammon. Don’t worry about the leftovers; soup is always a post Christmas winner.

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Pumpkin, Bacon and Swiss Chard Soup

Bacon Pumkin & Swiss Chard Soup

A soup for this season – warm and velvety

It is that time of year when my cooking is populated with soups. They are great for using up slightly too tough or slightly too old vegetables. And in the Netherlands, it is practically compulsory to have soup and a sandwich for lunch, whatever the weather outside. I am likely to be making quite a few more before the winter is out.

This year, I lost my young pumpkin plants to something, most likely slug-shaped. However, the chard has been going strong for a while now. As I would ordinarily be feasting on my own pumpkins, I have decided that it is not really cheating to add this to the ‘Farmed’ category.

I like my soups quite chunky, and my greens slightly underdone – having been subjected to many an overboiled brassica in my youth. You may prefer to pre cook or even use frozen greens in this soup, and chop or blend them a bit finer. This soup keeps very well in the fridge, and should also freeze well, although I have not tried it.

This soup is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just omit the bacon, and fry the onion in olive oil. I would suggest that you add slightly more smoked paprika at the end instead of the bacon.

Recipe: Pumkin, Bacon & Swiss Chard Soup

Ingredients

450 g pumpkin

A pinch dried chilli flakes

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus stalks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

500 ml stock (veg or chicken)

200 g Swiss chard (spinach would also work well, or maybe a savoy cabbage – it needs to be an iron-rich green vegetable)

200 g bacon, diced

80 ml white wine (optional)

Nutmeg and smoked paprika to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. Essentially, it has to fit in a roasting tin. You should leave the skin on. Sprinkle with a little oil (any type except your best olive oil) and season with salt, pepper, and the dried chilli. Rub the thyme sprigs over the pumpkin, and tuck the stalks into the dish as well. It may seem like a pain, but it will save you having to remove the stalks from the soup later. Put the garlic cloves inside or between the pumpkin. No need to remove the papery cover, this will come off much easier when the garlic has been roasted.

Roast the pumpkin in the oven, until the flesh is dry, and it comes away from the skin easily. The time this takes will depend on which type of pumpkin that you use.

Roasting the pumpkin concentrates the flavour a bit. If you don’t have an oven, like many people who I know, you can still use the pumpkin without roasting. just add the thyme to the pot when you sweat the onion, and the pumpkin and the chilli flakes when you add the (now chopped, not roasted) garlic. You will also need to let the pumpkin simmer for longer, until it is tender. Obviously, peel the pumpkin before you add it. No one likes a soup full of skin.

While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the other vegetables and the bacon. I like the stalks of the chard, but they take much longer to cook than the leaves, so I cut the stalks out, and kept them separate to the leaves. You may decide not to use them, or use spinach. Up to you. Whatever you use needs to be chopped up. How fine you want it is also up to you. I sliced the stalks thinly and the leaves a bit thicker.

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan. I don’t bother using oil, as the bacon will render its own fat pretty quickly – just keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn.With a slotted spoon, drain the bacon onto kitchen paper, but be sure to retain the fat.

Sweat the onion in some of the bacon fat (you may not need it all). If you are making this a veggie soup, sweat the onion in a little oil. Either way, don’t let it colour.

Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should slip easily from their skins now. No need to chop them. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. A glug is fine. Let it cook off and absorb into the onions.

Add the smoked paprika. I usually use about a teaspoon, but this will depend on your taste, and whether or not you are using bacon. Let it cook off briefly while you remove the skin from the pumpkin. This should come off easily with a spoon. Break it into rough lumps, and add to the pan with the onion. Allow it to cook briefly, and take on a paprika coating.

Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

I blended the soup at this stage, but if you prefer a less chunky soup, then you could also blend it after you have added the chard. After the soup was well blended, and smooth, I brought it back to a simmer, and grated in some nutmeg, until it tasted like there was enough in there.

Then I added the stalks of the chard, covered and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before I added the leaves, and allowed them to wilt. If you use spinach, or just the leaves of chard, then this bit will be shorter. If you are using savoy cabbage, I suggest parboiling it a little first before you add it to the soup.

Add the bacon back to the soup, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served this with a swirl of double cream. You can leave this out if you like, because it is a smooth and unctuous soup without it.

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Smoky Winter Root Soup

Smoky Winter Root Soup

A Winter’s Tale

I have been making this soup for years – since I was a student. I have made it so often that I stopped even thinking about needing a recipe for it, and now it is just easy and instinctive. I still make it a lot, because it is the Big Guy’s favourite now too.

I thought that originally it was a New Covent Garden Food Company recipe, but I have double checked both the books of theirs that I have, and it is not there. If this was your soup recipe initially, I am sorry that I am unable to credit you properly, but it is a much-loved and much-cooked dish.

As with all my soups, the amounts vary a lot, although I do tend to stick to only the ingredients listed for this particular one. I wrote the following out for a friend, after we had it on our weekend in the countryside. These amounts here should serve 4 people, or you can keep it in the fridge. It is even better warmed up the next day. It is a hearty and filling meal.

Recipe: Smoky Winter Root Soup

Ingredients

200g bacon, cubed. I can buy little lardons over here very easily. If you are using actual bacon, it is better to get streaky/ back bacon for this. Smoked bacon also works really well

1 onion, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

500g potatoes, diced

1 green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

1 can/jar sweetcorn

Splash of milk/ soy milk

Method

First prepare the vegetables. You want the onion pieces quite small and the chilli pieces as fine as you can get them. The carrot and the onion pieces should be about 2cm square.

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan over a low heat, so that the fat renders but does not burn. When the bacon is cooked, and slightly crisp, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, so that you keep the fat. Drain on kitchen paper, and set aside. The amount of fat from bacon will depend on the type and quality of bacon used. You want to fry off the vegetables in the fat, so pour off any excess, but keep enough to coat the vegetables.

Add all of the chopped vegetables, except the chilli to the pan, and fry until the onion has turned translucent. You will need to stir the pan occasionally. Meanwhile boil a kettle with about a litre of water. Once the onion has softened, but the vegetables have not coloured, add the chilli, and cook for a minute or so.

Add the boiling water to just cover the vegetables, bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. The amount of time this will take depends on the variety of potato used, and how big your dice are. For me, it usually takes about 10 minutes, because I chop the veg fairly small. Test with a knife, until you are happy. I don’t really mind if the carrots retain some crunch, so I only ever test the potato.

Once the vegetables are cooked, drain the tin of sweetcorn, and add the kernels to the soup, along with the cooked bacon. Season with pepper. You will not need to add salt, as the soup will get plenty of salt from the bacon, and the cheese. Allow to heat through for a few minutes. Add a little milk, and warm through.

You can make it with varying amounts of the ingredients, just make sure that the amount of carrots balances well with the white vegetables, so that it still has some colour.

Serve with crusty bread, and sprinkled with some grated, sharp cheese, such  as Mature Cheddar or Piquant Boerenkaas

The soup keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days. It will freeze, but if you want to freeze it, then don’t add the milk before you do so, rather, warm the soup through, then add the milk before serving.

I will add a photo of this soon, as we have it frequently, I just have not got one at the time of writing this post!

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