I do dumb things some time. I made a list of some of those dumb things but it got quite lengthy so I ditched it, remembering thankfully, that this is a cooking and not a confessional blog. Besides, everyone knows that poteen can kill you don't they? One thing I will confess too and which I do on a regular dumb basis, is cook far more complicated things than I need to, when I really don't have the time to, and oh how I wish somebody would sometimes try and stop me! Slap me and frog march me out of the kitchen if that's what it takes.
Why? Because I am an idiot. Wednesday rolls around and the urge strikes again. It's dinnertime and I have some butterflied lamb, potatoes and some brussel sprouts, a fairly basic meal that could more or less take care of itself whilst I tend to a ransacked house and my shaggy eyebrows. Brussel sprouts could take a few minutes in the frypan with some butter and olive oil - easy peasy. But no. Instead I'm thinking about my new stash of garlic and Yotam Ottolenghi (more of him later), and a recipe of his that I filed away several weeks ago. Even the title makes you tired. It pretty much makes the cooking of a fairly humble vegetable about as complicated as you can get but the end result is delicious and guaranteed to convert confirmed sprout haters - "Sprouts, I 'ate sprouts."
Yotam Ottolenghi's Brussels sprouts with caramelised garlic and lemon peel
4 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
About 150ml olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
50g caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
1 medium lemon
600g brussels sprouts
1 red chilli, finely chopped
50g parmesan shavings
20g basil leaves, shredded
Put the garlic in a pan, cover with water and blanch for three minutes. Drain, dry the pan, and pour in two tablespoons of oil. Return the garlic to the pan and fry on high heat for two minutes, stirring, until golden all over. Add the vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, the water and some salt. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat for five minutes, until barely any liquid is left, just the caramelised cloves in a syrup. Set aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave off wide strips of lemon skin; avoid the white pith. Cut the strips into 1mm-2mm thick slices, or julienne, and put in a small pan. Squeeze the lemon into a measuring jug and add water to bring the juice up to 100ml. Pour over the strips of peel, add the remaining sugar and bring to a simmer. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the syrup is reduced to about a third. Set aside to cool down.
Trim the bases off the sprouts and cut them top to bottom into halves. Heat four tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-based pan, add half the sprouts, season and cook on high heat for five minutes, stirring them once or twice, but not too often, so that they char well without breaking up; add extra oil if needed. They will soften but retain some firmness. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining oil and sprouts.
Stir the chilli, the garlic and its syrup into the sprouts, and set aside until warmish. Stir in the parmesan, basil and peel (without the syrup), season and add oil if necessary. Serve as it is or at room temperature.'ll leave the last word to Paul Kelly, famous for song writing rather than cooking. Cooking complicated is sometimes impressive but anyone who manages to include the words "nonchalant phenomenon," into a song about Don Bradman, beats that hands down.
I've also had a crush on him for a long time. There you go - there's a confession for you.