too much of something is bad enough

Did I really hate brussels sprouts while growing up, or did all the American TV shows and movies I watched with feverish fervour make me think I didn’t like them? Well, I’ve already asked that question here when I blogged about Ottolenghi’s Brussels Sprouts with Tofu, and as it does not behoove me to repeat content, I won’t, and will instead just direct you back to that (although the long story short answer is: kinda the former, kinda the latter.) Anyway, where I’m going with this is that it’s no great revelation to announce that people are generally suspicious of brussels sprouts, and I believe this usually stems from people – or more specifically, people’s parents – having zero knowledge of what to do with them. And so they did what you did with all vegetables back in the day: boiled them. Boiled them till they were formless, flavourless, unloveable and interchangeable.

What you should really be doing with brussels sprouts is frying them or roasting them. No longer are they bitter, flappy mini-cabbages of sorrow. Instead when applied to direct heat or when blasted under a hot oven, they become crisp, wonderfully nutty, crunchy, and deeply delicious. Not only nothing to be scared of, but something to eat much of.

The reason I’m currently so pro-sprout, is because I am in the middle of testing a million recipes for my upcoming cookbook (which is, in itself, an intensely delicious thing to say out loud, well on paper, well on this screen, anyway) and the things I’m testing right now are largely within the genre of cake. We are surrounded by cakes. This is fantastic. However, I enjoy a little contrast, and my tastebuds have reacted to all this cake by craving intensely savoury food. Hence why I made myself this for lunch yesterday.

Couscous with Fried Brussels Sprouts, Cardamom and Sesame Seeds

A recipe by myself.

This is more a suggestion than anything. I like cardamom’s eucalytpy-lemony bite, and I just had some cooked couscous in the fridge. You could use whichever spices you please, and mix it with rice, or bulgur wheat, or quinoa, or anything. But let’s suppose you do have these ingredients – here’s what you’d do.

6 brussels sprouts
Olive oil
3 cardamom pods, roughly sliced so that the pods are pierced but not halved entirely.
1/2 cup cooked couscous
1 lemon
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Trim the bases from the sprouts, then quarter them lengthwise. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, and throw in the sprouts and the cardamom seeds once it’s hot. Push them round so that one of the cut sides of each quarter is facing down on the hot pan. Place a lid on top and leave for a couple of minutes. This will allow the sprouts to fry and crisp up slightly, while also steaming them a little too, to actually cook them. Remove the lid and stir around – they should be considerably browned in places. Throw in the couscous and sesame seeds and squeeze in the juice of the lemons. Stir around to combine, then tip onto a plate. 

It might not sound like much but it’s a pretty perfect lunch, full of crunch and warmth and nutty deliciousness. And after eating it, I’m ready to face the cake again.

So guess what? I’m still kinda sick with that stupid head cold/flu/thing. Not nearly as sick, but still blowing my nose and coughing juuuuust enough to not feel entirely done with it. I am, however, well enough to get dressed up as a gold lion for a wild animal-themed party tonight. No doubt there will be amusing tails (haha!) to tell and photos to share once it’s done…in the meantime I’m looking forward to wearing lots of makeup, making my hair enormous (my main motivation for dressing up as a lion, I’ll be honest – I’m all about the big hair) and dancing big.
Title via: The so important Spice Girls, with their single Too Much from their second album Spiceworld. This song is rather gorgeous and still holds up well. And the video is amongst their most babein-est, and sometimes too much of nothing really is just as tough, you know?
Music lately:

Bernadette Peters, spookily ageless, always tears-inducingly good, singing No-one Is Alone from Into The Woods. Whether or not it’s true, it’s nice to have her sing it to you at least.

Ini Kamoze, Here Come The Hotstepper. You could play this to me at 4am on a rainy night after I’d been doing a graveyard shift as a bricklayer and I’d still get up and dance to it.
Next time: I will not be sick, and I might have come round to the idea of sugar again.

13 thoughts on “too much of something is bad enough

  1. Olivia McCaskill says:

    Nom nom!

    I have a challenge for you: Make me a recipe I can take to work that is 'clean', i.e. protein, veges, limited carbs (and if so, must be wheat free), no butter, but olive oil and coconut oil is ok.

    OK? GO!



  2. Alessandra says:

    Brussells and Cardamom, very innovative I think. I don't dislike them, I eat them… I don't love them like I love (yes love) broccolini for example, but I don't' buy them often and I only had grow them once (they take to much space and open up too early in Auckland… not cold enough! Still, I think that when a veggie is not a favourite then we become creative and try more stuff with it!

    Looking forward to your book, and i hope that you will feel better soon! When I feel like a cold or flu coming on I overdose on Vitamin C (I mean, about 8 fizzy barocca types of drinks in a day) and it works! I learned the trick in Japan years ago!
    No side effects (only a bit of an orange pee) and you can do it for 2 or 3 days if necessary, but usually one day and half is enough!



  3. Georgia Rose says:

    Laura, I think you may well be my new favourite blogger. I've stumbled across you in a fit of late-night waiting-for-my-boyfriend-to-get-home-from-work-at-The-Ambeli-which-I-am-only-telling-you-because-you-live-in-Wellington-also-and-like-food boredom, and I like everything. You are a woman after my own heart, and butter + icecream is definitely something I am going to be trying in the future.


  4. Eileen says:

    I don't think I ever ate brussels sprouts at all until I was an adult–so I got to experience them in delicious crusty roasted form on my first try! Lucky for me, right? These sprouts with couscous sound fabulous–& cardamom, you say? It makes me think Middle Eastern pilaf with apricots, pickled lemon, etc.


  5. Hannah says:

    Dear lord I love brussels sprouts. I did for most of my childhood, too, and then I got in trouble as a teenager for frequently microwaving them for afternoon tea and making the house smell “like pee”, according to my dad. Just tonight I ate them roasted in thyme olive oil with panch phora. FRYING NEXT.


  6. Kay says:

    I bought brussels spouts on the strength of this recipe – but will probably run out of time and just lightly steam them at the last minute when I want something green for dinner. (And then, I'll put the rest of the ingredients on my next shopping list.) Good to see so much support for the little green cuties, though.


  7. Couscous & Consciousness says:

    You just made me realise that so far I haven't eaten any brussels sprouts this winter, even though I'm rather fond of them. I like them fried until they go all nutty as well, and adding them to some couscous sounds like a great idea.

    Ok, think that just might be tonight's dinner solved – thanks for the inspiration.


  8. Anonymous says:

    these look goooood. we NEVER had brussels sprouts as kids… I think because my parents had hated them in the generation previous. I knew them as the 'icky' vegetable from babysitters club books. Then last year I tried them fried with bacon and walnuts. I felt cheated by my parents. Great post, hope the book's coming along nicely 🙂


  9. Emma says:

    Sounds like BSC did one wrong thing in portraying Brussels sprouts as the baddies:( My mom talked trash about them when I was younger, but now she's all into them. It's cool to see her change her tune about something after so many years of hating them / knowing them only in the over-boiled sense. I'm always looking for new ways to eat them since they are so gosh darn delicious, and this looks right about perfect.

    How was your big hair lion night?


  10. Zara says:

    I just made a version of this for lunch (involving honey + tamari) and it was spectacular! And now I can go about the rest of my day with steams of brussel-sprouts induced virtuosity coming out my ears, what's not to love!


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