Happy Sprouts

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My childhood memories of sprouts are not happy ones. My family’s traditional approach meant Christmas sprouts went on the boil in late November, and were little flaccid bags of sour farty nastiness. They have since been rescued from my hate list by pancetta, which improves just about everything, except perhaps ice cream.

This is based on something that Him What Knows dishes up on a regular basis, although I confess I don’t have the original recipe. Even devout sprout haters like me will be happy after a few mouthfuls of this.

Start by getting a large frying pan going at a low heat, and gently frying 75g of pancetta, stirring occasionally. Nowt of that foreign muck? Just some sweet cured belly bacon will do.

Wash 600g of Brussels Sprouts and slice off the stalks and any icky bits. If you slice off too much stalk, the sprout will come to pieces.

By now the pancetta should be well on its way to being golden, crispy and oozing out most of its fat, so boil the sprouts in a small saucepan of water until you can pierce one with a skewer. Expect a reasonable amount of resistance: they’ll keep cooking in their own heat and they’re due for more in the frying pan.

Drain them and add to the frying pan, along with 200g cooked chestnuts (you can purchase these in handy vacuum sealed bags), 25g butter, a generous grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. Raise the heat slightly, and fry for five minutes, stirring from time to time. Quite a lot of gunk will build up on the bottom of the pan, so deglaze with around 30mL of Vermouth, which will be absorbed quite rapidly, before transferring to a warmed dish to serve.


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