Good reasons to love the humble sprout

Roasted shallots, Brussels sprouts, ruby red pomegranate and pan-fried hazelnuts
Roasted shallots, Brussels sprouts, ruby red pomegranate and pan-fried hazelnuts
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It’s fair to say Brussels sprouts aren’t the most popular aspect of the festive dinner plate.

In fact they divide opinion so much, they have even had a book written about them.

The Sprout Book, published by Michael O’Mara, lists celebrity fans and haters – apparently Kate Winslet loves them, but Bear Grylls would rather eat raw goat’s testicles.

Enough said about how strongly sprout-haters feel. But that doesn’t explain why last December we munched our way through approximately 750 million of them – and a recent national newspaper poll showed that 71.8 per cent of respondents loved them.

Still, you’ll always find detractors in the run-up to Christmas ready to spout their sprout loathing.

Barbara Crick, who runs Emsworth Cookery School, says more people could be tempted (or even simply learn to accept the sprout) if they’re served up in smaller measures.

‘You just need a few with your Christmas meal, not about 10.

‘The problem is they come in quite big nets and we tend to try and use them all. There’s nothing like giving a child 10 Brussels sprouts to put them off,’ she says.

Thinking about how you cook them would also help, suggests Barbara.

‘A lot of people are put off because they go soggy, but you don’t want them too crunchy either.’

Barbara suggests cooking them in a normal saucepan in about half a centimetre of water so they aren’t fully immersed. This gives a kind of steaming effect. A cross should be cut into the stem to ensure it lets the steam in and cooks at the same rate as the leaves.

And she also has suggestions for what to do with the leftovers. Stir-fried sprouts with ginger, chilli and other vegetables is a favourite.

There are plenty of good reasons to eat sprouts, including their nutritional value. Sprouts are a rich source of Vitamin C and folic acid. One 80g serving of cooked sprouts provides you with 80 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, and 44 per cent of the RDA of folic acid. You get four times the amount of vitamin C from a Brussels sprout than an orange.

That could be enough to recruit some more diners to the sprout fan ranks, even if it doesn’t convince Bear.

Try sprouts with shallots, pomegranate and hazelnuts

Serves 4-6


12 shallots, peeled

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

500g Brussels sprouts

60g Butter

1 red skinned pomegranate seeded

50g chopped toasted hazelnuts


1. Preheat oven to 190°c gas mark 5 or 375°f. In an oven proof dish toss the shallots in the rapeseed oil to coat and season well with sea salt and black pepper.

2. Put dish into the oven and roast until the shallots are golden brown and tender for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the shallots are in the oven, trim the Brussels sprouts of any discoloured outer leaves and cook in boiling salted water for 7 to 10 minutes or until just soft. Drain and plunge into cold water. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the cold water immediately and set aside.

4. Then heat a frying pan on a gentle heat and melt the butter and add the Brussels sprouts.

5. Cook the Brussels sprouts gently, stirring occasionally until they are hot. Ensure not to brown them.

6. Take the dish from the oven and add the roasted shallots, pomegranate and toasted hazelnuts into the frying pan and cook for a further one minute. Season well and serve immediately.

Recipe from