A while ago I posted a variation of Marley's 'super awesome' chewy cookie recipe, which is still in my opinion the best and most adaptable cookie recipe around. Marley is also an avid cook of 'healthful' meals, and this midweek supper that she emailed me about is no exception.
This supper was created when I planned to make risotto but had a change of heart re: standing in the kitchen on my lonesome and stirring rice for half an hour. The risotto I had planed involved leeks, bacon, Brussels sprouts, fennel seeds and ricotta – an unusual but winning combination of flavours I came up with last Autumn when leeks and sprouts were plentiful at the Aldi. Bacon and fennel seeds (and chilli) make Brussels sprouts sing with joy, and leeks I find are a nice substitute for, or addition to, onion in a risotto.
Anyhoo. Couldn’t be arsed with the risotto, but had a small amount of risoni (rice-shaped pasta) to hand. Delicious creation ensued (served 2 greedy piglets; probably could’ve served 3 more restrained persons).
2 large handfuls of Brussels sprouts. I used a whole 500g pre-packaged bag from the Aldi. (They’re good for you. Don’t be shy.)
2 teasp fennel seeds, crushed a just a little in a mortar and pestle
4-6 rashers of bacon (depending on greed) trimmed of rind and excess fat and chopped into matchsticks
1 teasp brown sugar
2-3 courgettes, chopped into chunks (make a straight cut then an angled cut then a straight cut etc – result is nice pyramid-ish chunks)
150-200g risoni (could be increased to a normal 125-150g serve per person, but using the lesser quantity means the result is less of a pasta dish and more of a ‘dish involving pasta’, which was a more unusual and also lighter result)
Zest of ½ a lemon
2 tabs ricotta (I used low fat)
Score the sprouts with a criss-cross on their heads – cut as far down the sprout as you can without totally splitting it, except for giant ones, which are best split in half. Scoring the sprouts means they cook more quickly and absorb more flavours through the increased surface area. Parboil them in well-salted water – they should be softened but still crunchy at the core.
Fry the bacon and fennel seeds in a large frypan with lots of black pepper and a generous amount of olive oil. Add par-boiled sprouts – save their water, and just scoop them out with a slotted spoon or similar into the frypan. Add a splash more olive oil if necessary, and the sugar for maximum caramelisation. Shake frypan vigorously, making sure sprouts are well covered with oil and bacon and fennel seeds, and the bacon is well crisped, and the whole thing is caramelizing a little and smelling fantastic. Turn off heat when deemed appropriate/ smoke alarm going off.
Meanwhile cook the risoni in the sprouts water (speeds things up – water is already boiled, and as a bonus, has the nutrients from the sprouts). When only 5 mins remaining, add the courgettes.
Drain and add to frypan – turn heat back on for a bit if necessary, ditto add a little more olio – then add ricotta and lemon zest. Stir well.
Serve in deep bowls and HUGELY ENJOY.
I can see this becoming a weekly dish in our house. The flavours and textures were exciting, yet the overall effect was ‘comfort food’ – but without the stodginess usually associated with comfort food! Perfect! The lovely caramelised sprouts had their aniseed flavour brought out by the fennel seeds and offset by crispy salty bacon and nutty risoni, and the courgettes played a very nice supporting role as textural variety and flavour-absorbers. The ricotta brought it all together, and the lemon zest was last-minute genius.