N: Anirban was not very keen on any vegetable that was remotely connected to Brussels sprouts. But I could not take my eyes off them and rooted myself in front of the leaves at Waitrose and kept staring at them while the responsible adult kept picking up the regular items. I had seen those leaves on TV, vibrant and green absorbing every last drop of the scarce English sunlight, and always wondered what happened to them once the Brussels sprouts made its way into the market. Anirban had seen these symptoms before and hence succumbed.
A: There has lately been a silent horticultural revolution with the humble Brussels sprouts. The bitter taste of some sprouts can have a lasting impression that can put people off this lovely vegetable. So horticulturists have come out with a way to stop the bitter ones from propagating and at the same time been successful in coming up with some lovely new varieties. The purple sprout is one such sweet tasting variety which has been developed. These hit the Christmas market every year and although they are a bit more expensive than the green ones, they are a guaranteed sweet success for that all important Christmas meal.
They looked like a bunch of individual cabbage leaves with purple stems but very green leaves. They were marked as Brussels sprout leaves, obviously leaves of the plants which produced the purple sprouts. Sensing Nilanjana’s eagerness to try out this new vegetable, I decided to give it a try.
Picture courtesy GETTY IMAGES.
N: We took the leaves apart and blanched for a few minutes. The water instantly turned fluorescent green. I reluctantly drained the water all the while wondering if we could bottle up this water and drink it as a vitamin drink. Why waste? At least we ought to send it to a lab and find out what is it we are throwing away. But that will have to wait.
We tossed the blanched vegetables into a left over chilli along with some spaghetti. Anirban makes a wonderful chilli, I am sure he will share his secrets with you, but the leaves greatly enhanced the flavour of the dish. It was unlike any green leaf I have tasted before and I have tasted quite a few. The blanched leaves retain their intense green colour, have a wonderful crunchy but strong bite and the slightly bitter sweet taste fills up the senses.
We have since used it as a substitute for Kale or Cavolo Nero. Next Christmas ask your green grocer for these leaves and give it a try. And do not forget to tell us what you think.