Brussel sprouts are allegedly the new kale. Or so claim the gazillion articles published on the subject of the fashionable foods of 2015. If this is indeed the case, suits me. I seem to be in the minority of people not obsessed with kale chips, which makes me marginalised in my east London hood.
Brussel sprouts on the other hand, I can get on board with, and I have been for the past 20 years. My mum never overcooked them (thanks Ma) so I remain unscarred by sodden mini brassicas watering down the gravy on my Sunday roast plate. But they were always presented in much the same form – cross incisions made in the base then boiled to al dente, sprinkled with a little salt. There’s nothing wrong with that per say, but why boil something that tastes so sensational fried?
Fast forward to about 5 years ago, when I had the pleasure of eating at Porteño – a lively Argentine restaurant in Sydney boasting a proper parilla and asado. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was all about the meat with its much-discussed open grill as the focal point, but their sides proved as sublime as the crust on their entraña. I actually haven’t been back since 2010*, but deep-fried brussel sprouts with lentils remain the climax of my love affair. Is a superfood still a superfood if it is deep-fried? Probably not, but I’ll take these over a kale chip any day.
Crispy fried brussel sprouts with Puy lentils & Tomme de Savoie
Serves 4 as a side
From the pantry:
200g Puy lentils
approx. 750ml groundnut oil
1 heaped tbsp. wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste
a couple of twists of black pepper
50g tomme de savoie
From the veg box:
300g brussel sprouts
lemon juice, to taste
a small handful china radish sprouts, optional
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water. Simmer for about 15-20 or until tender, but still boasting a little bit of a bite.
In the meantime, prep the brussel sprouts. Trim their bases and peel off and discard the scrappy outer leaves. Cut them in half. Heat the oil to about 180c in a large heavy base saucepan or wok, then lower the sprouts in using a slotted spoon, fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Get a tray ready close to hand, lined with kitchen roll. Fish them out, drain on the kitchen roll and sprinkle with some salt while still hot.
Drain the lentils, place in a serving bowl and stir through the mustard and olive oil. Season to taste. Stir the brussel sprouts through and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Finely slice or use a speed peeler to slice thin slices of the Tomme and scatter them over the top. Then add a few china radish sprouts for a peppery bite.
*Sad little update: it seems that a fire broke out at Porteño on January 9th and they are closed for the time being.