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.