Happy new year, everyone! I’m currently in Hong Kong visiting one of my best friends and overeating. On my return to London, my meals will mainly consist of salads and cooked vegetables.

And this includes sprouts. I love winter vegetables and I’ve heard that this season’s crop of Brussels sprouts is supposed to be a bumper one. I picked up a whole stalk of them for about a pound at my farmers market before Christmas and had been eating them constantly. Rather than my usual method of roasting them, this year I’ve been shredding and then stir frying the little globes.

This year seems to be all about slicing and dicing up sprouts: I encountered two recipes for them in the span of just a week. Jun Tanaka’s recipe mixed them with ham and pine nuts; Jamie Oliver’s was with bacon and lots of Worcester sauce. I preferred the former with its nutty pine nut bite, the latter being a bit too fruity to pair with other dishes, and here’s my take on it.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pine Nuts

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Pine Nuts
recipe adapted from Jun Tanaka.

Take a large handful of pine nuts and toast them in a hot frying pan, tossing often. Set aside.

In the same frying pan over medium-low heat, add 2 tbsps of olive oil and throw in a whole smashed clove of garlic. Fry gently until the garlic is golden and then discard the clove. Toss in a handful of chopped pancetta and fry gently for a couple minutes. When the pancetta is cooked, turn up the heat and add a few large handfuls of sliced Brussels sprouts. Turn up the heat and stir fry for a couple minutes – if brown spots appear on the cabbage, then all the better! Add a little water and cover the pan and cook until the sprouts are as soft as you like. Uncover and let the water cook off.

Add salt and pepper to taste, mix in the pine nuts and serve.

I love Brussels sprouts! Now, that’s not a statement I would have made the first time I ever tried them, also the first time my mother tried them, and she cooked them the only way she knew how – boiled, as depicted in so many western cookbooks and television shows. While not terrible, they weren’t very swoon-worthy either, being very often waterlogged and grey. But then during university, sprouts started to grow on me – and these were the boiled ones from halls! I suppose it was inevitable since I loved regular cabbage. Anyway, it was when I moved out from halls and discovered sauteed sprouts and roasted sprouts that my love affair for them began. I now love to buy whole stalks of sprouts from the farmers’ markets; I was once told that they keep better this way but I have no idea if there’s any truth in that. Now is the season for them, when bags and bags will appear in the supermarkets and stalks at the markets.

Now with my love for them, when I heard that Momofuku Ssam Bar had a dish of Brussels sprouts on their menu, I knew I had to try them. Unfortunately, when I did get a chance to stop by that fantastic restaurant, the menu had already changed – it seems to only appear in the winter. Instead of roasting, they fry their sprouts (wow!) and top them with chilies and mint and fish sauce and puffed rice. They also make another sprout dish with kimchee puree and bacon but it was that original dish that had me intrigued. Luckily, the recipe was published in Gourmet magazine and I’ve adapted it here, not bothering with the rice krispies topping for everyday and with only coriander since I had no mint in the flat. But for a dinner party … perhaps the puffed rice can make an appearance then!

Momofuku's Brussels Sprouts

The sprouts were tender and delicious – the addition of butter after roasting is a stroke of genius. The dressing is salty and sweet and quite moreish but I can very much understand if it’s not to your taste – there’s a lot of fish sauce in there.

Momofuku Brussels Sprouts
adapted from Gourmet, October 2007
serves 8 as a side dish or 2 as a main course!

2 lbs Brussels sprouts (I used all the sprouts from a stem about 2 feet long)
2-3 tbsps sunflower oil
2 tbsps butter

Dressing
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic
1 Thai red chili, finely chopped, or 2 large pinches dried chili flakes
3 tbsps finely chopped coriander leaves and stems

Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.

Toss all your cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts (cut larger ones in half) into a roasting tray and toss with the sunflower oil. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice during the roasting period. The Brussels sprouts should be tender (if you still want a bite, reduce the roasting time) and brown on the surfaces. A few leaves will fall off but they go dark brown and extra tasty!

While the sprouts are roasting, in a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, water and sugar, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. The original recipe asked for the clove of garlic to be minced and added to the dressing but I was worried there’d be too much raw garlic flavour and so instead, I smashed a clove and let it infuse in the liquid. Toss it the chili and coriander and stir.

When the sprouts have finished roasting, toss in the butter, let it melt and then stir through. Toss the dressing through as well and serve.