January has so much potential to be rubbish. Christmas is over, and everyone's a bit hungover and a bit podgy; all the Christmas decorations are taken down and put away, yet you still keep stabbing your foot on pine needles which miraculously resist the hoover. Your last pay-cheque is oh so very long ago, and there are weeks and weeks until your next will arrive and save you from the inevitable Christmas spending hangover. It's still bloody cold, dark and drizzly, and the compensating glow of Christmas lights has been cruelly removed. And then people stupidly compound their misery by doomed efforts to stop drinking or start running or go on diets.
So, yes, January could be pretty depressing. But it would be completely impossible to depress me now in New (!) House (!), so I'm still irritatingly perky. It's a new year! A new start! Daffodils are in the shops, Hot Cross Buns are coming soon and it's already getting lighter as I leave work. Plus, you know, we have moved into our new house. This is a good time!
I've always loved rib-sticking winter food (ahem, Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Butternut and Chestnut Risotto, Spiced Chocolate Tart and Spiced Ginger Flapjacks, I could go on) but to prevent January slipping into the slough of despond, I think it's time to brighten up. Sharper, livelier flavours are the key to stopping January from feeling like an endless Narnia of winter without Christmas. The Clementine Cheesecake was a first step but these brussels show exactly what I mean - much as I adore the Christmas dinner bacon/chestnut/sprout combo, this recipe from Smitten Kitchen just seemed livelier.
And the result? The sprouts were delicious - but way, way overcooked for my tastes. I'd worried that would happen and I cut her suggested cooking time accordingly, but they still came out pretty mushy. As for the sauce, I realized pretty quickly that it was identical to the one that my mum makes to go with pork, and my friend makes to go with chicken. So slightly less bright and new than I was expecting, then. Never mind! It was still delicious, we're still in our new house, and February starts tomorrow. New house!
Mustard-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- about 12-14 brussels sprouts, peeled and halved, depending on how many you think you can eat
- butter, olive oil, salt and pepper
- half a glass of white wine
- half a chicken or vegetable stock cube
- an onion, finely sliced
- a couple of tablespoons of cream (we had double but single, creme fraiche, sour etc would all be fine)
- a tablespoon or so of dijon mustard (we also added in some grainy, just because we like it)
- a handful of chopped fresh parsley
Melt a knob of butter and a drizzle of oil in a big frying pan over a medium heat, then add the sprouts. Grind over some salt and pepper and brown them for 5 minutes or so, tossing around every few minutes. Add the onion, wine and stock cube, pour over boiling water to cover the sprouts, and bring to the boil. Then simmer the whole lot gently, covered, for about 10 minutes. Go five minutes longer still if you like your sprouts really mushy (we don't).
At the end of that time, test to check that the brussels are tender to a fork - then pour in the cream and stir well over the heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the mustard and parsley and serve.