The glut of brussel sprouts I have grown this winter has taught me to see this much maligned brassica in a new light and I have grown to love it. We have eaten them sliced with juniper and bacon, shredded and fried with shallots and folded through mash, but my sprout epiphany came this evening.
Mid week, mid January and we are living in Old Mother Hubbard’s house. The problem with our house is that we live in a world of ingredients, but there is sometimes not a lot to actually eat, especially if you are looking for something instant. So, admittedly the cupboards aren’t exactly bare, but are burgeoning with an enormous range of store cupboard ingredients; pulses, grains, rice, pasta, cous cous, quinoa, flours, jars of preserved fruits, pickles, chutneys, relishes, jams, dried fruit, nuts and above all else, spices.
I am a spice collecting addict. I pick most up from Asian and African food shops in Glasgow and can’t resist buying anything I haven’t heard of before or topping up on things I do have, but imagine I am running low on. (e.g. I have a collection of many shades of mustard seeds in rather large quantities and enough turmeric to make a world record-breaking dopiaza).
All this but only a finite range of fresh ingredients – potatoes, onions, two carrots, brussel sprouts, a tomato or two, and a handful of herbs, some lemons and yoghurt. It was starting to feel like a Masterchef invention test. Pretty weird selection at first glance but determined not to shop until at least this weekend, a vegetarian Ruby Murray banquet was conjured up. The pakora features tonight and I will follow up with another post covering the rest of the aromatic and spicy veggie curry spread.
Brussel Sprout Pakora
Broccoli and cauliflower make wonderful pakora, so why not their cousin the sprout? Sprouts need a bit of respect and careful cooking to bring out the best in them and I must admit, I wasn’t convinced this creation was a good idea. The sprouts must be steamed and blanched first or they will be rock hard and cold in the middle. The bicarbonate of soda helps lighten the batter.
The pakora turned out to be rather good. the sprouts were cooked evenly and deliciously soft with the fresh sprout flavour coming through, cloaked in a blanket of firey and aromatic batter that complemented the humble sprout very well.
20 or so small brussel sprouts
150g gram flour
1 tblsp garam masala
1 tblsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kaloonji (nigella seeds)
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tblsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
a few twists of black pepper
water – enough to form a thick batter
ground nut or sunflower oil for deep-frying
- Peel the outer leaves from the sprouts, score the thick base with a cross using a sharp knife to ensure even cooking and steam for 5 minutes.
- Blanch in running cold water and pat dry with kitchen towel.
- Sieve the flour into a bowl and mix in all the other remaining ingredients, except the frying oil.
- Add enough water to form a soft batter, making it thick enough to coat the sprouts. You can test this as you go. Add more flour if it gets too thin.
- Heat the oil, testing it is ready by dropping in a piece of batter. It should float to the top immediately and should fizz enthusiastically, taking on a golden colour quite quickly without instantly burning.
- Drop in a few sprouts at a time and deep fry for a minute or two until they take on a good colour.
- Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve with dipping sauces, preferably something hot containing lots of chilli and a contrasting and cooling raita.