One winter in Manhattan my partner and I did what one does in Manhattan: we mooched and we nibbled. We breathed in the sights of the city, battling the biting chill, and we ate at least five meals a day, telling ourselves it was to give us fuel to combat the startling cold, but we did the same on a summer visit a few years later.
One evening we were invited to Ilili, a Lebanese restaurant on 5th Avenue near Madison Square Park. Already absolutely stuffed, we arrived with baggy pants and bold ambition, both much required as the manager continued to bring out plate after plate of awesome Lebanese tapas. The only plate we could finish was, believe it or not, the sprouts. Fried with walnuts, figs and grapes, these were the best sprouts I’ve ever had. This Sticky Lebanese Sprouts recipe is my version of them.
– 75g dried figs, finely chopped
– 75ml dry sherry
– 200g natural yogurt
– 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
– 1 tbsp sunflower oil
– 500g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
– 200g sharp-tasting green grapes, halved
– 75g pecans, roughly chopped
– ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
– 2 tsp ground sumac
– Small handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
– Sea salt flakes
1. Combine the figs and sherry in a small pan and bring to the boil. Boil until the figs cook down and you have a thick paste. Add a splash of water to loosen it into a thick purée. Set aside until needed.
2. Mix the yogurt with the mint and a pinch of salt. Set aside until needed.
3. Heat the oil in a decent-sized frying pan over a high heat. Once the oil shimmers from the heat, add the sprouts and fry, tossing frequently, until they smell delightfully nutty and have started to char. Add the grapes and pecans and fry, tossing, for a further minute, then add the sherry vinegar, sumac and parsley and toss together.
4. Finally add the fig purée and toss to combine.
5. Serve the sprouts on a platter, with the yogurt drizzled over the top.
John Whaite won the third series of The Great British Bake Off. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu, though his love of food came from learning at his mother’s knee. He writes for the Telegraph and is resident chef on ITV’s Lorraine. He is the presenter of ITV food programme The Chopping Block, out in April 2016. He has also opened his own cooking school John Whaite’s Kitchen. Comfort is his third book.
With the concept of hygge emphasising the importance of enjoying the sensual, warming things in life, cosy cooking has taken on a new life. John’s new collection of enticing recipes will have you cooking up a comforting feast in the kitchen.