So I’ve been dying to share with you my latest discovery from the vegetable aisles of Marks & Spencers. My husband and I were wandering through the shop trying to get inspired for dinner, which is trying, especially as he is limited to protein and vegetables and I am limited to mostly vegetables and trying very hard to be healthy. We are at cross-purposes and I’m sort of grumpy in the grocery these days – not feeling inspired by the mid-winter produce and crabby at the wails of “MUMMY!” that echo through the linoleum lanes.
Anyway, so I was poking around the shelves and came across something that looks like a Brussels sprouts but with fuller leaves that resemble a Flamenco dancer’s skirt, tie-died with bright purples and greens. The label calls it “Flower Sprout” and explains that this veg is a mix between Brussels sprouts and curly kale, developed by British farmers for a public that’s always seeking new veg.
Now, I’ve tried to make kale delicious so many different ways. My latest attempt was from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Everyday Veg book. Kale and Mushroom Lasagna sounded, if not decadent, that at least edible and healthy at the same time. The picture of the dish promised delicately sautéed mushrooms and the heartier kale awash in béchamel sauce with noodles and cheese. How bad could it be? I don’t know if I did something wrong (and I am devoted to the success of Hugh’s recipes normally), but it was wretched. But the flower sprout was potentially my way of saying I eat kale without having to really do so.
Apparently, both kale and Brussels sprouts are from the same family in the vegetable world, meaning that their genetics are similar and they can therefore cross-fertilize and cause a new hybrid to develop. This was how our dear friend the Flower Sprout came to be. And as both are superfoods on their own, how terrific to have them merged together in one little package.
I brought home a package but remained somewhat sceptical because although I love sprouts, well, you know my feelings towards kale. It sat in the fridge for quite a while (and the hearty sprout half of it kept it resilient from rot), and then one night when I was feeling particularly uninspired in the kitchen, I pulled it out. I didn’t even trim the bottoms like I normally would for sprouts, I simply blanched them for about 5 minutes in some boiling salted water, drained and set aside. In a frying pan I cooked up some Italian sausage, added some fennel seeds and red pepper flakes to the mix and then added the blanched flower sprouts. I stirred this while waiting for my farfalle to finish cooking, saved a little of the pasta water, just in case. Finally I just bunged it all together in the frying pan, coating everything in the fat from the sausage and adding a little of the pasta water to bind it all together. Some grated parmesan on top and it was done.
Now, I’ve made a version of this dish using broccoli rabe (or purple sprouting broccoli as they call it here). That is good but this is much better! The flower sprouts had the nutty flavor of a Brussels sprout but with a more leafy texture and completely free from the bitter taste some people accuse the originals of having. They were al dente but not dense. They offered me everything I love about Brussels sprouts with none of the negatives.
Since my initial trial of the flower sprout I have tried other variations. The best other version involves simply roasting them at high heat after coating them with olive oil, salt and pepper. The nutty flavor is intensified and the curly leaves get crispy almost like a potato chip. I will keep incorporating them into my repertoir as long as they’re on the shelves here.
I checked and it looks like they sell seeds of this new veg online, should you be feeling particularly ambitious and there’s apparently a website (http://www.flower-sprout.com/) devoted to this superfood as it tries to make inroads into the already crowded vegetable market, but this one is truly a worthwhile, delicious little gem to be looked for next time you head to market.
Sausage and Flower Sprout Farfalle
1 pound Italian sausage links removed from their casings
½ pound flower sprouts
2 cloves of garlic
pinch of each fennel seeds and red pepper flakes
1 pound of farfalle pasta
Put your water on to boil for the pasta and the flower sprouts – and remember to salt the water well, once it comes to a boil. In a skillet break up the Italian sausage as you cook it. When it’s almost browned add the garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. When your water comes to a boil add the flower sprouts and cook for five minutes. Remove the sprouts from the water with a strainer (but keep your water) and add the pasta now – cook to package instructions. Add the flower sprouts to the sausage meat and allow the flavors to mingle. When the pasta’s almost ready remove a cup of the cooking liquid and set it aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the sausage and sprouts. Add the pasta water as needed to bind it all together and give it the consistency you want. Top it all with some grated parmesan.