Shredded Brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine nuts – and my new year wishes for you

Shredded Brussels sprouts © J Horak-Druiff 2010

There is a lovely saying in Afrikaans which goes geluk by die ongeluk, which means fortune with the misfortune – or, roughly translated, every cloud has a silver lining.  Isn’t that a great way of looking at things?  Whatever seemingly disasterous thing Life throws at you, you just need to look at it in a different light to see that it is also a gift in disguise.

Tonight we mark the passing of 2010 and welcome 2011 and I cannot deny that there will be some cause for mourning.  Perhaps 2010 was not a good year for you; perhaps you lost a job, a marriage, a treasured pet, or even a loved one.  Perhaps the year was financially difficult or emotionally draining, filled with tough choices, rebellious offspring and unrequited love. Or perhaps you simply could not, however hard you tried, reach the goals you had optimistically set for yourself at the start of the year and had to watch them escape like an elusive butterfly each time you reached for them.

But turn that same coin of 2010 over and you will see that there is also cause for celebration. Difficult choices scare us all, but once made, they liberate us and set us on a path that seems far less dark and scary that we had thought.  Clinging to a broken relationship is often the weight that is dragging you down in more areas of your life than just the relationship; it feels like hell as you are ending it, but a few months down the line it feels like liberation. And often we are so wrapped up in the misery of not reaching the goals we set ourselves that we don’t notice the other things that we have achieved along the way. But the biggest cause for celebration is the fact that, however unfulfilling 2010 may have been, it is a hill we have already climbed and now we are at the crest, gazing down at the beautiful view that is 2011 – a pristine landscape waiting to be explored, discovered an cultivated however we choose.

My new year’s wishes for you all are that you may choose wisely, laugh like nobody is listening, dance like nobody is watching, and love like you have never been hurt. I know I will.

Another neat application of the geluk by die ongeluk maxim is the insane weather we have been having in the UK over the past month. Oh yes, there was cause for gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes.  The frosts and snow arrived super-early at the end of November, a good month before we can usually expect to see snow.  Gatwick airport closed after the second snowflake fell and stayed closed for days.  Heathrow airport cancelled something like 70% of its flights and was operating on only one runway for nearly a week.  The news each night was filled with families sleeping under space blankets in the airport terminal and angry customers shivering in makeshift tents outside the terminal.  People missed meetings, holidays and even their own weddings.  But… on the bright side, early frost is the catalyst that makes some of my favourite vegetables super-sweet:  carrots and Brussels sprouts.  Apparently the plant senses the cold and displaces water cells with sugar in order to protect against freezing and voila – a super-sweet sprout! So if the snow starts up again, forget about flying anywhere – just hole up at home nibbling on some sweet vegetables!

People classify Brussels sprouts as “difficult” as if they are some sort of vegetal problem child, but you just have to know how to treat them right.  Their leafy layers trap water, so boiling them will make them sad and soggy – please don’t do it!  Steaming them is better, but still leaves you with something that presents a challenge to children – roasting and sautéeing are by far the best methods.  This recipe makes them almost unrecognisable by shredding them first and then spicing things up with pancetta and pine nuts – the kids won’t even know what they are eating until it’s too late 😉


If you liked this recipe you might also enjoy my:

©J Horak-Druiff All rights reserved ShreddedSprouts2



About 1kg Brussels sprouts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil
150g pancetta (or good bacon), finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
vegetable stock


Clean the Brussels sprouts and slice each one into thin slices about 2mm thick.  Break up the layers in the slices as you go.  Finely chop the onions and pancetta, and crush the garlic.

In a large, deep flat-bottomed frying pan, heat enough oil to just cover the base of the pan.  Add the onions to the pan until they just start to turn translucent, then add the pancetta and sautée until just cooked.

Add the Brussels sprouts (you may have to do this in batches) and sautée together with the pancetta and onions until they start to soften and the edges of some bits start to brown.  Then add just enough hot vegetable stock to cover the base of the pan with about 1mm of stock. Give the pan a good stir and then allow to steam-fry until all the liquid has evaporated.  Check if the sprouts are tender enough for your liking – if not, add a little more stock and repeat.

In the meantime, toast the pine nuts in a small, dry non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Shake the pan so that they toast on all sides and watch them like a hawk as they burn easily.

When ready to serve, scatter the pine nuts over the sprouts in a pretty serving dish.

And in other news…

My 2011 calendars are now available!  They are A3 size, printed on high quality heavy paper and make the perfect gift – for foodies, for those who love London or Italy or the beach – or those who simply love my Saturday Snapshots! And at £15.51 each they are an affordable luxury.

The May 2011 Plate to Page hands-on food writing and photography workshop presented by meMeeta, Jamie and Ilva is now sold out – but register now if you are interested in Plate to Page II in Italy in Autumn 2011!

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider sharing it using the social media buttons below the post. I'd also love to hear what you thought about this post so please do leave a comment below. Hope to see you again soon!

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  1. says

    I was repelled by “sad and soggy” brussel sprouts until my daughter turned me on to sauteed last year. I look forward to following you oin your continued journey in 2011 Jeanne. Happy New Year!

  2. says

    You are such a gifted writer, Jeanne, as well as a gifted photographer and food guru. This post is so uplifting that I don’t see how a person could read it and not feel hope for the new year. Thank you.

  3. says

    Weirdly, my whole family likes brussels sprouts and the kids even get excited when I cook them. They’d probably hate them if I served them with pancetta, but I wouldn’t! These sound great and I will have to try the recipe to test my theory.
    I entered the blogging world just this past year (me = dinosaur), and got to know you as well. Thanks for all the help and advice and I look forward to our get togethers next year.

  4. says

    I’ve always loved sprouts, luckily my family do too. Happy New Year – I look forward to reading more of your very informative and interesting posts.

  5. says

    My new year’s wishes for you all are that you may choose wisely, laugh like nobody is listening, dance like nobody is watching, and love like you have never been hurt.
    Jeanne, that is truly beautiful and this is just what we have decided to do in 2011! And forge ahead and reach for the stars! This will be an amazing year, I just know it!
    I so want to try Brussel Sprouts and how lovely about the cold making them sweeter. I like the image of them warming themselves!
    Darling Sweary, Sister Spice, my 2011 bring each of us great joy and happiness, health and riches in the way of attained goals and loving friendship and next New Year’s Eve I hope that we all can clink glasses together over a shared meal and ring out the old and in the new together! xoxo HUG!!!

  6. says

    My parents hated brussels sprouts and I had never even tried them until I was at least 27 and now I’m completely obsessed. I like the addition of the pine nuts, I always enjoy a little added crunch to my greens.

  7. says

    Happy New Year to you. And this looks and sounds so good. I’m not a huge fan of brussel sprouts, but I’m sure I’d love them in this concoction. Lovely.

  8. says

    Jeanne, thank you for making me smile on this rainy morning. Your words touched me in many ways, made me sad for a moment, but your optimism and hope lifted me up immediately.
    I feel that this year will be a great one and indeed look at it as if from above, like a long, beautiful slope my skiis have to traverse, with a little bit of trepidation and a lot of excitement.
    Thank you for the inspiration!
    As for shredded Brussels sprouts, I am eager to try them. That’s the only vegetable my oldest daughter will not eat. But she loves pancetta:)
    Happy New Year to you, too! I am looking forward to enjoying more of your beautiful words and photos.

  9. says

    We have a saying: lo que no mata engorda…what does not kills you makes you fat…
    Hope your New Year’s was filled with laughter and love.