Creamy Brussel sprout gratin

After a Christmas of boiling sprouts to within an inch on their lives and then serving them up only for family members to bemoan them, this poor old vegetable needs a revamp! This gratin pairs the earthiness of sprouts with the sweetness of shallot, saltiness of ham and luxury of cream so read on…

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Ingredients- serves 2
A small bag of sprouts approx. 250g- peeled and trimmed
30g butter
30g plain flour
150ml milk
150ml double cream
50g parmesan
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
4 slices of Parma ham or similar
30g breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180fan. Heat the butter and flour together in a saucepan before adding the milk and cream little by little. Make sure no lumps form! Bring to the boil when all the milk is combined before lowering a gently simmer to thicken the sauce.

2. Meanwhile, par boil the sprouts and set aside. Take a small pan and gently fry off the shallot until softened and turning golden. You can also either use the same pan to crisp up small pieces of the ham or you can add this uncooked later on so it’s up to you. I used Carmarthen ham which worked perfectly.

3. The sauce should now be ready to season and to stir most of the parmesan into. Reserve some to combine with the breadcrumbs (I used panko) for the topping if you like. Add the sprouts, ham and shallot to the cheese sauce before placing in an ovenproof dish to bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Serve as the main event or with a meat dish. It also goes well with a good piece of steak!

An indulgent gratin perfect to use the last of the Christmas sprouts!

Slow cooked oxtail vindaloo with festive Brussel sprout bhajis

Banish the thoughts of rowdy people in an Indian restaurant later at night ordering the hottest curry they dare or fans singing the classic football song which takes it’s name from this curry… this is the real deal! ‘Vindaloo’ comes from a Portuguese origin however we have come to know and love this dish more as an Anglo- Indian delight so put down the takeaway menu and get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the marinade

Glug of oil
4 large pieces of oxtail roughly the same size
50ml malt or cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar or palm sugar
1 tsp garlic puree
1 tbsp ginger puree
5 whole black peppercorns

For the spice paste
2 tbsp malt or cider vinegar
6-8 kashmiri red chillies or similar
Seeds of 3-4 cardomom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions- finely chopped
400ml beef stock
400ml tinned tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes

1. With a bit of forward planning this can be yours! Start up to 12 hours ahead of when you want to start cooking and marinade the pieces of oxtail in the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Cover well and leave in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

2. Preheat your oven to 170c/ 150 fan whilst you brown the pieces of oxtail in a large pan. Brown it on all sides; the more time you spend on this the better the finish of the curry sauce will be so don’t rush it! When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Next up goes the onions to soften for a few minutes. Combine all the spice paste ingredients and grind before adding to the pan with the onion and cook out for a further couple of minutes. Try using a couple of black cardomom pods for a smokier flavour too.  Add the oxtail back in the pan along with the stock and tomatoes. When it comes to the spice paste you could either grind all the chillies or do what I like to do and grind half and then prick the remaining chillies and drop into the tomatoes so it infuses further.

4. Bring the oxtail up to a simmer before covering and popping in the oven for 2 1/2- 3 hours. Do check from time to time and give a gently stir. When the meat is ready it should be tender and falling away from the bone. Serve with rice or naan or get a bit festive with Brussel sprout bhajis…

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Brussel sprout bhajis- serves 4
100g Brussel sprouts- shredded
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 dried red chilli- snipped (optional)
150ml cold water
Oil to fry

1. Shred the Brussels before you make the batter. Gram flour is made from chickpea and lends itself to the perfect bhaji. The baking powder gives a lightness so don’t forget it! Sieve the flour into a large bowl before adding the baking powder and spices. Add the water little at a time until you achieve a thick batter before mixing the sprouts into it.

2. Carefuly heat the oil in a pan so it is a couple of inches deep over a high heat. To test if it;s ready, drop a small piece of sprout into it and it should bubble around it before turning golden. Use a couple of dessert spoons to shape the bhaji mix and carefully lower into the oil. The will take a few minutes to fry and remember to turn them halfway through so they colour evenly. Cook around four at a time so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. When they are ready, remove from the pan using a clotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before serving.

Authentic oxtail vindaloo- a curry house favourite with a festive side dish!