**STOP PRESS** The Randomizer.org has spoken and chosen the winner of the Bluebasil gourmet brownies giveaway – and the winner is EMMA HOWARD! Congratulations, Emma – we will be in touch soon via e-mail to arrange for delivery of your prize! **
Over the summer, I spent a weekend in Paris and met up with my good friend Val who lives there. After a morning in the Orsay Museum, we met up with Val and her other half Pete for a lovely lunch in a bistro near the Saint Sulpice church and then tried to decide what to do after lunch. The menfolk were keen to find a bar to watch rugby (I mean, what else could you want to do on a summer afternoon in Paris?!) and Val and I were less enthusiastic, so we said we would go sightseeing. As the boys disappeared around the corner, we made a beeline for the Marché Saint Germain where we could see a number of stalls selling scarves, antiques and jewellery. At the very first stall, my eyes alighted on a beautiful amethyst ring. “Go on – try it on!”, said Val. “No, I can’t”, I replied, “Nick will kill me if I buy yet another ring!”. “Well, just trying it can’t hurt, right?” wheedled Val. And so I tried it, and it not only looked like a million bucks, it also fitted like Cinderella’s proverbial slipper. And before I knew what I was doing, I was handing over the cash… just as Nick appeared behind me like some sort of avenging anti-shopping angel, saying “So this is how you do sightseeing, huh?!”. And before I could answer him, Val turned to him, smiled sweetly and said: “What can I say – I am an enabler.”
Enablers get a bad rap. If you look up “enabler” in the dictionary, the meaning you will most often find runs along the lines of “one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behaviour by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behaviour”. But before this negative meaning took centre stage, to enable also had a positive connotation, namely patterns of interaction which allow (or enable) individuals to develop and grow. When I was very young, my parents travelled to India for a conference. They came back with some glorious temple rubbings and a number of exquisite silk scarves – which I still have. They also came back with dire tales of being the only ones on the tour bus who were not constantly ill. My father put this down not to the fact that they drank only Coca Cola from sealed tins for the duration of the trip while everyone else was on tap water, but to the fact that they had assiduously avoided all salad-like vegetables during their visit. In fact, my father believed lettuce to be the bearer of Many Bad Things – the veritable Beelzebub of the vegetable world. It is therefore safe to say that he stronglydiscouraged his children from indulging in this madness and rolled his eyes each time my mom made or ordered a salad, warning her of the dire consequences that awaited her. I was quite happy to have a parent officially sanctioning avoidance of vegetables, of course. And then one day on holiday in Plettenberg Bay, my mom took the radical step of ordering our takeaway Cranzgots pizzas with a side order of cheese salad. Of course, I loved cheese and tried to scoop just the cheese out of the salad bowl but try as I might, the salad came with it. And so, to get at the cheese, I ate the salad, and I loved it – as did my dad. To this day, I still adore salad – so you could say that cheese was the culinary enabler that unlocked my palate and allowed me to develop and grow into a salad-lover.
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I could not think of a savoury dish that cannot be improved by the addition of some sort of cheese. And so with this theory uppermost in my mind, I started pondering whether cheese might not also be the enabler and catalyst that could convert the legions of Brussels sprout haters at this time of the year to Brussels sprout lovers? This recipe is not rocket science and you can dress it up a little if you like with bacon bits or wholegrain mustard or fancy cheeses – but I love the simple version which only has two secrets: don’t overcook the sprouts; and make sure there is a generous amount of cheese involved. The sprouts lose their horseradish-y tang and don’t have time to become mushy, and the contrast between their bechamel sauce blanket and the crispy topping is gloriously indulgent. This bake makes a wonderful addition to a Christmas dinner table, and one that guests will be unable to resist.
Other Cooksister Brussels sprout recipes you might enjoy include:
- Simple sauteéd Brussels sprouts
- Sautéed Brussels sprouts with caramelised garlic, lemon and chilli
- Shredded Brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine-nuts
- 500g Brussels sprouts (outer leaves trimmed and cut in half vertically)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp plain flour
- 500ml single cream
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 75g grated mature Cheddar cheese
- about ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a fast boil, then drop in the sprouts. Return to the boil and allow to boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat immediately and drain well.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter, the stir in the flour and allow to cook for a few minutes. Gradually add the cream and stirring the saucepan rapidly after each addition. Keep stirring over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg as well as salt to taste
- Tip the cooked Brussels sprouts into an ovenproof baking dish, pour over the sauce, then sprinkle the Cheddar evenly over the top and the crumbs on top of the Cheddar.
- Bake in the a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the gratin is bubbling at the edges and starting to turn golden brown on top.