Easy recipe for brussels sprout gratin with fennel salami

20 Oct

When it has been this cold and grey for so long, it’s hard to shake yourself from the winter torpor. Thank goodness, then, for the optimism of the pagans: Imbolc, or St Brigid’s Day, is a Gaelic festival at the start of February, halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It’s a celebration of the first signs of spring, and milk-based dishes traditionally mark the occasion. In keeping with that, here’s a creamy-rich gratin studded with salami. Perfect fodder to spoil yourself, and to welcome the lengthening days.

Brussels sprout gratin with finocchiona salami, fennel seeds and breadcrumbs
Brussels sprouts as you never knew them: sweet, tender and with a twist of fennel echoed in the delicious Tuscan salami – you should be able to get that in any Italian deli worth its salt.

Prep 20-25 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4-6

1kg brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
350ml double cream
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
30g butter
70g finocchiona salami, slices cut into thick strips
Salt and black pepper
½ tbsp fennel seeds
3 tbsp demerara sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
100g soft white breadcrumbs
50g parmesan (or pecorino), grated

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas mark 4. Bring a pan of well salted water to a boil and blanch the sprouts for three to four minutes (depending on size), until just tender, then drain.

Put the cream, two garlic cloves and the bay leaf in a saucepan on a medium-low heat, bring to a simmer and cook gently for five minutes, until the cream has reduced a little.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the salami for 30 seconds, just until it starts to release its fat. Stir in the sprouts, season and toss in the hot, buttery fat for a minute. Stir in the infused cream (discard the garli, which has now done its job), then tip the lot into a small baking dish into which the mix fits snugly.

Put the remaining garlic clove, the fennel seeds, sugar and a couple of pinches of salt in a mortar and grind to a paste. Stir in half the oil, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs and cheese. Toss to combine, then sprinkle on to the gratin. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden. Leave to rest and cool slightly before serving.

And for the rest of the week…
Saute shavings of leftover salami with savoy cabbage, then drizzle with black butter (butter melted and cooked until nutty and brown) and a grating of parmesan for a tasty and quick lunch (the salami also works well with green beans in summer: cut it into batons and dress in a simple vinaigrette). Sprouts are great in veggie curries, whether Indian or Thai: they add real body and keep their shape.

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