Recipe from Roast by Marcus Verberne
I actually prefer the sweet sprout top hearts to the Brussels sprouts themselves. The sprouts grow clutching to the thick stem of the plant and the heart sits at the very top of this stem. Cut in half down the centre and opened up, the sweet sprouts act as a vessel for this dish, catching the chestnuts, pancetta and butter between their many layers. This recipe is great as an accompaniment for game birds such as pheasant and partridge but in the past, during the Christmas period I have even served it as a starter. If you can’t get hold of wild boar pancetta, a good quality standard pancetta would be fine as a substitute.
10 fresh chestnuts
8 sprout top hearts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
12 rashers of wild boar pancetta, cut into 5cm lengths
50 grams butter
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.
To peel the chestnuts, use a small sharp knife to score a cross into the pointed end of each chestnut. Roast the chestnuts in the oven for 15 minutes until the crossed end starts to splay open revealing the golden nut inside. Allow the chestnuts to cool slightly so they can be handled, but do not let them cool completely or you will have a torrid time trying to peel them. Remove the hard casing and also the membrane between the casing and the nut. Once peeled, break each chestnut in half and place to one side.
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Cut each sprout top heart in half, splitting the stalk end down the middle. Rinse the tops under cold water to remove any undesirables lurking between the leafy layers.
Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil and fry the pancetta. When the pancetta is just starting to curl up and its flavoursome fat is rendering into the pan, add the chestnuts. When the pancetta is crispy add the butter. Continue to cook until the chestnuts caramelise in the foaming butter.
Meanwhile, add the washed sprout top hearts to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes until tender. Drain the sprout top hearts in a large colander with their hearts pointing downwards, which will allow the water to drain off. Arrange the drained sprout top hearts on a flat serving dish with their open hearts facing upwards.
Generously spoon the chestnuts, pancetta and foaming butter into and over the sprout top hearts. Season them with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy with the pepper – sprout top hearts love pepper! Serve immediately.
Roast by Marcus Verberne | Absolute Press | £25.00
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