Honestly the veggies don’t have to be “The norm”. But there’s nothing wrong with just having some carrots, parsnips and Brussels sprouts.
The much maligned Brussels sprout is a member of one the cabbage families grown for its edible buds. This leafy Green vegetable is typically 2.5–4cm in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium and may have originated and gained its name there. According to the English food writer Jane Grigson, they are first mentioned in the city of Brussels’s market regulations in 1213.
Here’s two alternatives to simply chopping and boiling for your green veggies. Both can actually made up until the final plating the day before. And although you’ll be busy Christmas Eve, Christmas day will be a bit easier.
Lemony Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Breadcrumbs
450g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
150g diced pancetta (Italian bacon),
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
200g coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Remove outer leaves from Brussels sprouts; set aside. Halve the sprouts; set aside.
Cook the pancetta, stirring often, until browned around the edges about 4 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer this breadcrumb mixture to paper towels and let cool slightly. Toss in a medium bowl with the diced chilli, thyme, and lemon zest.
Increase heat to medium-high and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in same frying pan. Add reserved halved Brussels sprouts; season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until deeply browned all over, 5–8 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add reserved leaves and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and toss to combine. Cover pan again and cook, tossing occasionally, until leaves are bright green and just wilted, 4–5 minutes. Uncover; add the remaining lemon juice.
Transfer Brussels sprouts to a platter, drizzle with more oil, and top with reserved breadcrumb mixture (reheat breadcrumb mixture if needed in a small pan)
Do Ahead: Breadcrumb mixture can be made 3 hours ahead; store uncovered at room temperature. Brussels sprouts (without leaves) can be cooked 2 hours ahead; store covered at room temperature. Reheat before adding leaves.
A couple of slices of country ham or prosciutto
200g coarse fresh breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
200g finely grated Parmesan
2 bunches kale (about 450g) and stems removed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
450ml whole milk
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place ham on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, 20–25 minutes; let cool and break into pieces.
Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan; toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat and add thyme and ¼ cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Mix in ham and set aside. You can put this in a container at this stage and store in the fridge for a couple of days.
Cook the kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Drain and squeeze dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop greens and place in a large bowl.
Heat remaining olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with greens; set aside.
Increase oven temperature to 200°C. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and very pale brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, ½-cupful at a time; add the grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 5–8 minutes. Whisk in remaining ¾ cup Parmesan. Add béchamel to green kale and mix to combine; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer this mixture to a pie dish and top with breadcrumb mixture; place pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to preserve your oven!). Bake until gratin is bubbling, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Divine.