HARDEEP'S FOOD FOR THOUGHTDreaded Sprouts with a Punjabi Twist
Brussels will spring a twin track attack on us this Christmas: Brexit and Sprouts – but Hardeep Singh Kohli has a recipe for success (for one of them at least).
The Star Wars “prequels”. Mother Theresa. Andrew Lloyd Webber. The welfare system. Robbie William’s solo career. Diana Spencer, Queen of Hearts. George Best signing for Hibernian FC. Scottish Independence. Any Oasis album after What’s the Story(Morning Glory). The work of Tracy Emin. Coventry. Brexit.
There has never, ever, in the history of time been an insufficiency of issues designed to divide us.
As a species we like to consider ourselves cultured and cultivated, evolving effortlessly into erudition and ceaselessly civilising. We work to free ourselves of the ties of tribalism; all of us Darwin’s children embracing evolution in an attempt to garner a greater understanding of our fellow humans and the ever-expanding universe around us.
Our hope, our constant hope is to overcome all that distinguishes us as “other”. We travel this journey, this odyssey of self-realisation that will, one day, delete all our divisions, our differences, our divergences. Our hope, our constant hope is that we might eventually arrive at that ephemeral and utopian state of “oneness”.
I know. As we approach the end of a decade, nothing could feel further away from any sort of oneness.
Have we ever felt our communities so fragmented? Have we ever found our body politic so fatally fractured? Has this once United kingdom been ever so defined by its disunity? Our constitution, like that favourite childhood aunt, once full of a lust for life is now frail, failing and fundamentally flawed. Will she make it beyond Christmas?
And as the days disappear on this inexorable gallop towards Christmas – our countries held together by old parcel tape, anger and confusion – we approach a subject that causes a division more invidious than even Brexit.
This Christmas, brassica splits any and every room. For some, these little balls of beauty will be the very epitome of delicious. For others, mere mention of their name has been known to cause the dry heave. It seems a cruel and fitting irony that Brussels will spring a twin track attack on us this Christmas: Brexit and Brussels Sprouts.
I can think of few vegetables I love more than the tiny Christmas cabbage. Yet, in my undying love, I can still fully appreciate why so many abhor the sprout from Belgium. It’s at these moments that my duality of heritage and home inform and educate me the most.
Punjabis are known for their plethora of greens and other coloured vegetables. The permanently irrigated waters of my grandfather’s land are an Eden for all things edible. So abundant are the vegetable pickings that some have no name in English; they only seem to grown in the north-west of India.
We are expert at cooking greens – cooking, rather than boiling. For ages. In a pot. Filling the kitchen, and so the house, with the sulphuric smell of cabbage/cauliflower/courgettes that have been “cooked” (cremated) to the point of contempt.
Growing up alongside my white friends, I wondered how they could be expected to spoon emaciated, once-green forkfuls of “food” into their mouths while holding their noses and gulping for air? I genuinely wondered if they would ever be exposed to the exquisite excellence of the wonderful world of veg.
So, in the spirit of Christmas giving, I humbly offer you a recipe for Brussel Sprouts that has the potential to convert the most hardcore haters; to win the hearts and minds of those who never imagined that they might, one day, seek out the sprout.
RECIPE: Cumin and Salsiccia Brussel Sprouts
Half a kg of medium brussels sprouts; 600ml water; a couple of good Italian sausages, de-skinned and broken up into uneven chunks; 2 tsp of salt; 30g of butter; a tsp-and-a-half of cumin seeds; a finger or birds eye chilli (optional); 2 tbp of extra virgin olive oil; black pepper.
Cut away the outer leaves of the sprouts and halve them all. Put the water and salt (all of it) in a decent sized pan. Get the water up to a dramatic, angry boil and slip in the sprouts in. Lid the pan and cook for a minute. The water will return to the boil at which point remove the lid and cook for around 4-6 minutes, size dependent.
While they cook, heat the butter and oil in a frying pan. Once the butter foams, toss in the cumin and fry hard for a minute before introducing the pepper and the chilli. Fry for a minute and add the sausage, by which time your sprouts should be ready.
You’re looking for the sprouts to be vibrant green and to be cooked but still al dente. Drain very well and don’t, don’t return them to the pan they cooked in.
Move the meat around until its cooked. Add the sprouts. Check for seasoning and serve.