Best known as an accompaniment to roast turkey at Christmas, brussels sprouts have had to cope with a dodgy reputation. Sadly, their true flavour is lost when boiled to death, which does them no favours.
In-season from November to February, they're grown on thick stalks and resemble tightly packed mini cabbage heads. If you can, buy them while still attached to the stalk for maximum freshness. Loose Brussels will keep for around 3-4 days in the fridge.
Choose small, firm-textured sprouts - about 2.5cm in diameter, with bright green, unblemished leaves. Strip away any loose, tired-looking leaves before cooking.
Sprout tops are sold as greens, and have a more pronounced taste than brussels sprouts, but less so than cabbages.
The Rubine Red variety, a favourite with sprout connoisseurs and noted for its purple colour and sweet flavour.
IN THE KITCHEN
If you're going to serve them whole, steam, or blanch in lightly salted boiling water just before serving. 5-7 minutes steaming time is about right, what you're looking for is a crisp bite, without any hints of limp, watery texture.
Set aside about 500g brussels sprouts for four people when serving as an accompaniment vegetable.