There are certain foods I have to have at Christmas time. Panettone or almond biscotti dipped in coffee; eggplant and tomato relish with a wedge of mature vintage cheese; Karen Martini's middle-eastern inspired Eton mess with pomegranate jelly; and Persian fairy floss and a spruced up caprese salad, dotted with crème fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice.
But my absolute Christmas must-have is Brussels sprouts. This is definitely a leftover from our London living days, and though this cruciferous gem is horribly out of season in the southern hemisphere in December, I’m slightly ashamed to say that I still seek them out! Seasonal eating goes out the window, just for one day – it is the silly season, after all!
Luckily, no matter where we live, we no longer have to serve Brussels sprouts the traditional way, smothered in butter and with lashings with bacon. We can shave them raw, in a rather delicious Brussels Caesar salad. For a perfect bite-sized treat, halve them, pan-fry in olive oil, drizzle with caramelized balsamic, top with a mint leaf and parmesan shaving. Or perhaps throw them on the barbecue and serve them blackened, with a zesty salsa verde.
Most years, I still cook a Brussels sprouts salad on Christmas day. So, with festive season menu planning in full swing, I throw this new recipe into the ring. This could be the perfect Brussels sprout salad for the holiday season, as it can be served cold or hot, and it provides a light relief from the inevitable seasonal curse of overeating. The roasted sprouts are dressed in a lighter style pesto, inspired by my recent days spent in Provence. Instead of basil, I’ve used local French ingredients of parsley and mache lettuce, which is also known as lamb’s lettuce or corn salad in some parts. Mache provides a lovely smoothness to the pesto – it has a slightly nutty flavour, but is also very mild – substitute with English spinach leaves if you can’t find it at your grocer. The other star of this pesto is the cheese. I’ve used my favourite cheese of ALL TIME (big call, I know!) - Comte, an unpasteurized French cow’s milk cheese which is very similar to Gruyere. In France, Comte is readily available in most supermarkets but in Australia, you may have to seek it out in a well-stocked grocer. Just use gruyere if you can’t get your hands on a wedge of Comte.
Parsley, Mache and Comte Pesto with roasted Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa
As with any pesto, feel free to experiment with different herbs, nuts or cheese. This combination is a new one for me and I think it’s a new favoruite – it is mellow yet still punchy and so tasty. For the shoot, I made this pesto by hand as I was without mortar, pestle or food processor! The result was chunkier than normal, but it was a really lovely texture. Feel free to chop by hand, or use whatever apparatus you have on hand! Make the pesto the day ahead and store in the fridge. It won’t go brown like normal pesto, as it doesn’t contain basil. Just bring it back down to room temperature before you use it!
| Serves 4 |
- 700g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g green beans, trimmed
- 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
- 2 cups liquid vegetable stock
- ¼ cup black olives, pitted
- Sea Salt and black pepper
- Extra ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
- Extra ¼ cup Comte cheese, grated (optional)
Parsley, mache and comte pesto
- 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup (tightly packed) flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 cup mache lettuce (or English spinach leaves)
- 30g almonds (or pine nuts), roughly chopped
- 25g Comte cheese (or gruyere), grated
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
To make the pesto, place the garlic in a mortar and sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Grind until you have a paste, then add the parsley and mache and pound until the leaves have broken down. Then add the nuts and pound again until you get a thickish paste. Slowly add the olive oil until you get a smooth consistency. Stir through the lemon zest and cheese. Season with more salt, if required and some pepper.
Trim the beans into 2cm segments and dress in some olive oil, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Halve the Brussels sprouts, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place sprouts on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven for about 15-20 minutes, until starting to turn golden. Add the green beans to the same tray and roast with the Brussels sprouts for a further 5-10 minutes until the beans are just tender.
In a medium saucepan, add the rinsed quinoa with vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are translucent. If there is any liquid leftover, simply drain it off. Leave the quinoa in the hot saucepan for a further 5-10 minutes to allow it to dry out further, delivering fluffier grains. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Roughly tear up the olives. Combine the Brussels sprouts, beans and quinoa with the olives. Spoon over the pesto and stir well. If you wish, serve with an extra scatter of parsley and grated Comte. Eat immediately for a warm salad, or leave to sit and eat at room temperature.