Brussels demand a green Xmas…..

September is long gone, but the leaves of brown show no sign of tumbling down this November although the lyricist would be happy to know that it’s raining. Wherever he was when he penned those lyrics, it wasn’t the Vendee. Here, the green vanishes  and returns overnight, or so it seems. Suddenly the trees are big, bare  and black  and nature’s couturiers, unseen,  get to work on creating the marvellous costumes that we will see next Spring. My guess is green.

Christmasness diminishes with age. The excitement of receiving is replaced by the pleasure of giving and the childish delight of playtime is replaced by the near military precision of providing the expected seasonal scenario. By carefully refining my grumpiness, I have found a comfortable niche in the kitchen for the majority of the jolly proceedings. From those few words it will be clear that there is not a little “bah humbug” in my nature, but the sight of the humble brussel sprout will unfailingly arouse a Christmassy emotion in me.  I’m not sure how much I like them, but I am drawn to them at this time of year when the efforts of food editors are showcased in print and on screen. When I was a working photographer, the perennial “We want to do Christmas with a twist” was a phrase that not only sent a chill down my spine, but also made me want to shoot the messenger. Torquemada is one of the few people who gave Christmas a twist that would have been unforgettable to those who experienced it; he did have the benefit of not trying to please anyone but himself, which made it easier. The cleverness in the marketing of Christmas today is the successful removal of any meaning save for the temporary ……. five seconds is the zeitgeist but the marketing gurus have spun out Christmas over five months, which is no mean feat. A less welcome, but equivalent manifestation, would be a wonderfully designed hospital whose clear signage led the sick into a totally dark and empty building devoid of any medical significance…..but it would look really fabulous; a hospital with a twist.


Back to Brussels. I had seen a simple recipe for roasting Brussels sprouts on a blog some days ago. It had stuck in my mind, not on account of any originality but because it sounded so good to eat, which is a very good quality in a recipe. A lone sweet potato, a vegetable for which I have no great love either, had cuckoo like found its way in amongst the sprouts. The orange and green seemed a vibrant combination for a chilly day. This was cooking at its simplest. I peeled the outside leaves off the sprouts, halved them and put them into a roasting tray with some olive oil. Chunks of bright orange sweet potato, parboiled, were then mixed in with them and the mixture seasoned with salt and pepper. Forty minutes in a hot oven produced a delicious tray of crisp edged, nutty sprouts and sticky,caramelised chunks of sweet potato. In the end they didn’t get eaten, as I had already planned dinner, but are waiting to be part of a delicious bubble and squeak that will accompany Toulouse sausages and Puy lentils tonight. And now for a quiet read in front of the fire before heading into the kitchen.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2013, Autumn, Childhood memories, Christmas, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, fashion, fireplace, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Humour, hypocrisy, Illusion, Kitchens, Landscapes, Olive oil, Photography, Religion, sea salt, The Forest of Mervent, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vendee, Weather, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

69 Responses to Brussels demand a green Xmas…..

  1. Victoria says:

    I’m a great lover of baby brussel sprouts, but roasted? I’ve never heard of that.
    I just like mine steamed or boiled. Of course that’s a winter vegetable i.e. June/July ‘down under’.

    I love roasted sweet potato too. Twice the nutrition of white potato.

    I like roasted root vegetables of any kind. Your mixture of green & orange does look delicious though. Do you eat roasted parsnips over on your side of the world?

  2. Another beautiful post – I love your blog. It’s the only WordPress site where I can get prose and two veg 24 hours a day. I’m a brussel sprout fan, much to my children’s ohror – I eat them alone in the kitchen as if I had the plague.

  3. The roasted brussel sprouts with sweet potato sounds great! Thank you I’ll try that. My only objection to sweet potatoes/yams is when something sugary (brown sugar, maple syrup, marshmallows) is added, completely undermining the natural sweetness and goodness of the potato. Tiny marshmallows are the worst! Heave.

  4. Wonderful pictures and an entertaining read. Thanks for the early morning (in NYC) lift. Until about three or four years ago I eschewed Brussels Sprouts and then discovered they roast well with hazelnuts. Sweet potatoes are an interesting combo idea as well, I must try it.

  5. margaret21 says:

    Hey, you can’t eat sprouts yet! They haven’t been sweetened by the frost – not here, anyway. And the French have us to thank for parsnips too. When we first arrived they were nowhere to be found outside the cow byre. Now they are almost as common as in England, and they give the English the credit for helping them see the light. And isn’t the best, the very best thing about France the fact that they simply won’t and don’t start Christmas till December, and not even at the beginning of the month? It’s lovely to get Christmassy when it hasn’t been rammed down your throat since October. Oh, and if you want autumn leaves, you should head down our way. Autumn, beginning late October and going on into December is glorious here.

  6. Mad Dog says:

    I won’t even allow sweet potatoes in the house, but I got some very pleasant little sprouts from the farmer on Sunday. I read somewhere that some of the old fashioned bitterness has been bread out of sprouts – they do seem to taste better since my childhood.
    I see you’ve got the fire on 😉

  7. that looks like a very cosy reading spot you’ve got there 🙂 I have only recently been convinced to try baked brussel sprouts, and was rather surprised that I liked them, and even had seconds. My mother used to boil them with vinegar and they were horrible little things.

  8. Maybe your confort recipe could fight and win my Brussel srpouts aversion, but I’m not ready yet 🙂 BTW, gorgeous pictures !

  9. A fantastic post Roger & fabulous photos. In time to give the Brussels sprouts I am serving tonight a twist – I do like sweet potatoes, so I am really looking forward to it – if I can find some sweet potatoes that is.

    • I thought sweet potatoes came from your neck of the woods…I’ve only just tried them.

      • Well, I think they do. Years ago I found out that archaeologists in the Pacific were mightily interested in the ‘migration’ of the sweet potatoes throughout the Pacific and the Pacific rim – they could trace migratory patterns that way.
        The reason I said that I was not sure I could get some is because they are in great demand around Thanksgiving, and in this little place we do run out of things! 🙂
        I did get some, made your recipe and it was greatly enjoyed by all. So, A million thanks!

      • Of course…I had completely forgotten the part that they play in the Thanksgiving dinner. Glad the recipe worked out OK.

  10. lulu says:

    Like you, I view Christmas somewhat differently these days. The daughters have claimed it as their holiday which is as it should be since they’re the ones now with youngsters. I, too, focus on the giving and not just of presents.
    I like adding the sweet potatoes to the brussels sprouts. I have to disguise them as much as possible to get the hubby to eat them.

  11. Bah humbug – when we were in Spain we could escape most of the pre Christmas hysteria, here in England at the moment it’s crazy. Pretty much all the shops have their decorations up and I hate it. Love Christmas, but only for a week or so 😦 Love the sprouts recipe as I am not a sprout lover – I saw one the other day which roasted them with cubes of pancetta and then drizzled the cooked dish with reduced balsamic vinegar. Will have to try both and see which I prefer before the big day. But then that means I’m embracing Christmas waaaay too soon!

  12. Brussels sprouts?! 😮 I’m the paragon of charity when it comes to that. No Christmas ghost could say I needed to schedule an appointment regarding this topic.

  13. What a homey fireplace!

  14. I love Christmas. In December. But as you say the marketing types have dragged it out for months so it’s hard not to be sick of it by now. You have a cosy spot in the kitchen. I would love to have something like that. I’ll have to try the sweet potato with the brussel sprouts. Well I’ll make it for my husband and kids at any rate. 🙂

  15. saucygander says:

    With a mother-in-law who hates turkey- she bought a slislimline oven so she can’t fit one – I have to do Christmas with a “twist”! Do you have a corner in a humbug kitchen for her?

  16. Cooked Brussels sprouts made into kind of puree with pepper, bit of lemon and sweat cream or crème fraiche, that’s how in can tolerate them. Love your image of the fireplace, the orange cup placed on top of it, add a twist to it, there we go twisting. Oh BTW is that you drink your Red out of?

  17. Eha says:

    Oh Roger, twixt your lines I read so clearly why Christmas has become a time I almost wish past every year rather than celebrate – and, no, having turned towards Buddhism in the last few decades does not explain that one away! Neither am I Scrooge . . . just 🙂 ! Oh . . . love the Brussels, usually ‘shaved’ and stirfried!!

  18. MTM will like the brussels sprouts. Me, not so much. But, the green photo is drool-ish.

  19. Fig & Quince says:

    I love your blog! And I covet that fireplace (and a plate of the Brussels sprouts)

  20. EllaDee says:

    I would like to experience a northern hemisphere Christmas and Brussels sprouts, particularly roasted with sweet potato because the photo looks wonderful, as festive food except it wouldn’t feel like Christmas, and long term I could never give up my cool Summer Christmas menu. And it would be me alone, as I too eat sprouts but am not a grownup – the G.O. won’t touch them. I didn’t eat sprouts as a kid as no-one in my family must have realised Brussels sprouts could be sourced from anywhere but the freezer section of the supermarket… absolutely disgusting.
    Like the sensitivefoodie my family also had a predilection for dousing cooked vegetables in vinegar – until I was an adult I thought that’s what spinach tasted like… absolutely disgusting. As a non grownup I now also eat almost daily and love spinach, sans vinegar.
    And, despite being a non grownup, ‘Christmasness diminishes with age’ resonates with me. I’m struggling with the trappings of it, although I relish its essence still.

    • Nicely put. The cooking of vegetables in vinegar is something that I have never experienced and I can imagine the relief on finding out that they didn’t have to taste like that. As I sit in a very cold house this morning, I’m beginning to the good things in Christmas Down Under:)

  21. Love roasted Brussels sprouts. Would never have combined them with sweet potatoes, but like them both, so will be trying soon. Your fire looks so cozy . . . .

  22. Oh, yes, of course sweet potato. I think I would love that addition. Just made them last night (again) tossed with a good quality bacon and smashed garlic cloves before roasting. What a lovely colorful pan of vegetables. How did it go with the puy lentils and sausages?

  23. Karen says:

    Love the color of your dish of sprouts and sweet potato. I’m sure they were delicious with your finished dish of sausages and lentils.

  24. ChgoJohn says:

    That opening photo is a real stunner, Roger. We won’t be seeing clouds like that until March at the earliest which, if current trends continue, will be about 4 weeks before next year’s Christmas decorations go on display. Bah humbug, indeed.
    I really enjoy roasted sprouts and adding sweet potato sounds terrific. I need to try this.

  25. I love brussell sprouts – they are one of my favourite veggies, and yeah, people give me strange looks when I say that. But that’s only because….well, because they just don’t like that green veggie. But I love to roast them like this and often add parsnips and even rutabaga as well as the sweet potato. Throw on a bit of herbes de Provence and it’s all good.

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