Thursday, 18 December 2014

Brussels Sprouts in Oyster Sauce, Gula Granola, and yes it's Christmas

I am writing this before I get onto a plane headed for L.A., where I'm spending Christmas with the Boy's family. I promise to keep the gloating about Californian sunshine and kale to a minimum while I'm there, but WHEE.

This is likely the last post for the year of 2014, a ridiculous whirlwind of a year that has been nothing short of wonderful. I’ve spent a good part of this year visiting some parts of the world I’ve always wanted to visit; bummed around in Singapore a lot– held some popups and a kimchi workshop on a rooftop farm but mostly just tailed Mum in the kitchen; done a handful of art direction, food styling and illustration projects I’m really proud of; come back to London as a creative director for an organic company I like the values of; gone foraging and cooked up a storm for 50 with a dog and her chilli-crazed dad and done the same-ish in New York; and I still have a few things up my sleeves I can’t yet share but are pretty damn exciting.

Amidst all that, it has been crazy keeping up with the blog, so I’m very happily surprised to have people still check back. I’m definitely still blabbing on on this lil’ ol’ page. I know no one reads blogs anymore; there are too many words to scroll through and it is much more fun scrolling and salivating through food photos on instagram, but it is nice to be able to sit down and let your photos stretch beyond a square and your thoughts ramble beyond a tiny textbox.

Today’s rectangular photos and rambling thoughts are decidedly Christmassy.

There are two vegetables that almost have to be on the Christmas table: (roast) potatoes and Brussels sprouts. One is a universal favourite, while the other is a little tricky to swallow for some people. It’s the one with the bad reputation I have a recipe and a tip for today.

Scientists have found it is actually genetic, which must be a relief for Brussels sprout haters subjected to years of “ah you’ve just not had it the right way, let me introduce you to my recipe which I swear everyone loves”. I personally love the things and can pop them, simply steamed, into my mouth like popcorn, but I understand how annoying it must be; I feel the same every time I admit I hate macaroons, though it is probably not genetic in this case. (“Oh but have you tried the one at the original Pierre Herme store in Paris?” Yes I have.)

That said, I have a recipe here today for sprouts. I figured it would be a timely one, and it is quite likely the sprout-haters might need to serve the terrible things to others as part of festive tradition. For those who want to give them a go, here’s my top tip: Brussel sprouts need fat. Roast them in olive oil, slice them thinly and saute with butter, or fry them in chicken fat– any of this will help tame the acrid musky taste of these little brassicas.

Greens stir-fried with garlic and oyster sauce is a very common dish found both in homes and on the streets of Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and any Southeast Asian country with a Chinese community. I figured why not do the same with these little buggers.

Serves 2-4
250g Brussels sprouts
salt, for blanching
2 tbsp groundnut oil
8 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp good, traditionally fermented oyster sauce
1 tsp good fish sauce
1 tsp of unrefined light palm sugar or light brown sugar
60ml water

1. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Halve any large ones. Blanch them in a pot of boiling salted water till they turn bright green, about 20 seconds, then drain and set aside to air dry.
2. Smash the garlic with the flat side of your knife but leave them whole in their skins. Heat oil in a wok or a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until aromatic and golden.
3. Turn the heat up and add the Brussels sprouts. Stir-fry on high heat until just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and continue stir-frying for 30 seconds. Add the water, bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. 

Serve hot, usually with rice of course but it could maybe go with potatoes and turkey too, just this once.

It's hard for vegetables not to taste good when tossed in a hot wok till smoky, savoury, salty, sweet and garlicky. I like to leave the garlic whole in their skins so that they don’t burn as easily; plus, I get the bonus of roasted garlic cloves. For those still not convinced, you could try using sprout tops which are more tender and akin to spring greens. This recipe is a versatile one not just for Brussels sprouts but most vegetables really, or even a mix of vegetables; just blanch the hardier ones first before tossing them into the wok.


More Christmas ideas:

Edible gift ideas:
Nyonya achar (spicy Peranakan vegetable pickle)

The best sort of presents are edible ;) This is a batch of organic granola I made with gula melaka, coconut oil and cinnamon last night. Gula melaka, for the uninitiated, is an unrefined dark coconut palm sugar that tastes like burnt toffee. Ho ho ho.

Recipe for those on the mailing list, get on it.