A sprout is for life, not just for Christmas

I’m in the minority of people that like sprouts, and I think it’s a shame that I only eat them once or maybe twice a year.

They are a bit of a pain to prepare, but then so is an avocado and they’re the cool kid everyone wants to be BFFs with. In comparison the humble sprout is the geeky quiet kid in glasses that everyone shuns. But, just as the geeky kid in most teen movies gets their girl/boy/new found popularity delete as appropriate), I’d like to see the sprout have its day.

I think a lot of the bad press with sprouts is that they’ve been sorely mistreated. Some chefs will be bringing theirs to the boil now, ready for Christmas 2018! Others will wait until 11:52 on Christmas morning, and they’ll be so hard you’ll need to wear safety glasses while attempting to get them on your fork, in fear of a stray sprout pinging off your plate and whacking you in the eye!

If I’m having sprouts with Christmas dinner, I like to gently part boil them, then stir fry them in a wok with a bit of chorizo. The flavours work really well together. Chorizo makes everything better, so even the sprout haters in my family find these palatable.

I’ve embarked on a low carb, high fat diet for the new year, and being allergic to eggs and dairy, breakfast is a particularly tricky meal for me. When I tried this diet a few years ago I had cold meats and dairy free cheese for breakfast, which was ok, but not great on a cold January morning.

I scoured Pinterest trying to find something suitable to try, and came up with nothing. So I turned to my cupboard of recipe books and remembered that a few months back I tried Hemsley + Hemsley’s bacon and bean hash, which was nice. However for the first two weeks of the diet beans should be limited, so I got my thinking cap on for ideas of how to bulk the recipe out. My mind said sprouts. And why not? They’re in season, they add flavour and bulk, and I know they work in bubble and squeak.

So I pimped the recipe slightly, and cake up with my own breakfast bubble and squeak. Really you can add whatever you fancy, but I used chopped streaky bacon, onions, celery, white cabbage and sprouts. I part boiled the sprouts so they were easier to mash into the mix.

I stir fried the mixture until it was begging to brown in places, and added a little hot paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper.

I served it this morning with a couple of slices of black pudding. Yum! Just what I needed at 6am on a chilly Monday. I’m hoping it will keep me going until lunch time.

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Starter as you mean to go on?

The humble starter. I think Great British Chefs description is good, “A well-chosen starter recipe can set the tone for an entire meal.” So why is the starter often such a disappointment?

I had my Christmas lunch today at work. There was a set menu which was supposed to cater for all tastes and diets, but of course, me being me, it didn’t cater for my weird variety of allergies.

I should get it out there and say that the main was good:

Turkey ✅

Roast potatoes ✅

Sprouts ✅

Carrots ✅

Pigs in blankets ✅

Gravy ✅

The waitress wasn’t sure if I could eat the stuffing, so I went without.

The dessert was the usual fruit salad, but after a big lunch I didn’t mind.

It was the starter that really got my goat, and to be honest the normal people’s one didn’t look great either.

The normals got a big cold tomato filled with guacamole and cream cheese with a little salad garnish and a bread roll.

I got a big cold tomato (I don’t like tomatoes) stuffed with cubes of melon and cold chopped asparagus with a salad garnish and no bread roll. You’ll see from my picture that this was just sad looking, and it tastes no better. It was just weird. I mean, who looks at my allergy list (dairy, egg, nuts, fish, avocado(maybe)) and thinks, “I know just the perfect combination of food. Cold tomato, asparagus and melon!” Why do we not see this classic combination used in Masterchef?! There was a funny little drizzle of something on the plate which I must concede was quite nice. I ate everything (except the tomato), but that was only because I’d paid for it, not because I liked it.

I got into a discussion with my neighbour at the table next to me, as we couldn’t fathom why this odd starter had been chosen in the first place. On a cold wintery day we were expecting something with a little substance. A nice chunky vegetable or lentil soup for instance.

This got me thinking about starters in general and why starters for special diets are always so terrible. Yes, I’m fairly limited in what I can eat, but I would have been happy with melon and cured ham. It’s easy. It’s quick. And it tastes so good.

Generally restaurants (in particular the chain restaurants) have an ok selection of one or two things I can eat. Chicken wings are always a winner, but I’m also partial to bread and olive oil, olives, hummus or a nice meaty terrine. Event caterers really struggle and I normally end up with a plate of melon or some other fruit or something random thing like today’s designer dish. There are so many good recipes out there and these are professional caterers so why is it so difficult?

I love reading food magazines and pinning recipes on Pinterest, and my favourite starter recipe is Good Food’s Ham hock and mustard terrine which is delicious served with a dollop of Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney and some lovely fresh bread. In fact, this is what Mr Allergy and I are making for Christmas this year. On second thoughts I could be tempted to test out the tomato/melon/asparagus combo on my unsuspecting family and see what they make of it….