We used to live in Brussels – Paleovirtus Jr. was born there.
As a city it quite simply defies concise, neat descriptions. No guidebook produced could ever do it justice. It may sound like a hippy-esque cliché, but it’s still true – this city has to be experienced to be believed. Even the simple act of buying a piece of fruit could easily and rapidly become a surreal encounter that would still have you scratching your head in disbelief over 15 years later.
To live there was to oscillate wildly between two emotional poles. On a good day, enjoying a coffee whilst sat on a sun drenched medieval square, having a conversation in three or four languages simultaneously, or enjoying a killer plate of stew in a cosy tavern during the winter, I would have lived nowhere else, but on a bad day, when the incessant rain started to wear you down, or after another spirit crushing encounter with the world’s most fearsome bureaucracy, I would have truly lived anywhere else. Really, anywhere.
As its name suggests, the city is the veritable datum when it comes to this noble, often sadly abused, vegetable.
I would say that there are two golden rules. Firstly, they should never, ever, be overcooked. They will die. They will not taste good. They will become limp, the colour will drain away, and foul tasting sulphurous compounds will be produced.
In a sane world, this would be a crime worthy of a considerable spell in the slammer. People who think they do not like Brussels sprouts have only ever tasted murdered ones. Be prepared to catch them at just the right moment, or don’t even bother.
Secondly, there should be pig involved at some stage or other. Hard core, old school types will simply sauté them in lard. I prefer to dish them up with plenty of fried bacon cubes.
Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Bacon, Onion, and Sesame Seed
- 280g cubed, smoked bacon
- 600g Brussels sprouts
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp sesame seeds
- Olive oil
- Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a medium sized non-stick frying pan. Fry the cubed bacon until it has taken on a nice, golden colour. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside, leaving the olive oil and any rendered bacon fat behind.
- Add the onion to the pan, and fry until that too has taken on a good colour, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
- Cook the Brussels sprouts by your method of choice until just tender. Set aside.
- To finish the dish – heat a non-stick wok over medium heat. There should be enough oil / fat on the bacon and onions to get the job done, if not add a splash more olive oil.
- Add the bacon and onions to the wok. Stir fry until heated through, about a minute or so. Add the Brussels sprouts to the wok, and carefully stir fry until they too are heated through. Finally, add the sesame seeds, and stir fry to mix well with the other ingredients, a minute or so should be enough. Serve.
Because I wanted to avoid clashing flavours between this incarnation of the dish and the main course it was accompanying (Honey Lemon Chicken) , I chose not to include garlic and paprika, but 3 or 4 minced cloves of the stinking rose and a teaspoon of smoked Spanish added at the same time as the onions wouldn’t hurt at all. If you’re so inclined you could even contemplate a fine drizzle of sesame seed oil over the finished dish, too.
You might also want to play around with lightly toasting / dry roasting the sesame seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan before using them.