This is what I call my “all out” sprout recipe, roasting them with a little maple syrup and lots of cloves of garlic, before tossing them with lightly toasted walnuts, soft chunks of blue cheese, chestnuts, and crispy, salty pancetta. It is Christmas, after all – let’s not hold back!
You can use this recipe on its own as a starter for a festive meal in the build up to the day itself, or as an indulgent side for Christmas Day lunch. Adding the classic combination of chestnut and pancetta, along with the cheese and walnuts ensures the sprouts will not be overlooked!
The maple syrup takes the edge of the slight bitterness of the sprouts, and I love the combination of salty and sweet in this dish. If you’ve already got enough going on on your table, you can omit the walnuts and blue cheese for a slightly simplified version.
Preheat your oven to 230°C. In a large baking dish (or split it between two dishes if you don’t have one big enough, to avoid overcrowding), mix the sprouts and garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil. They should be reasonably well spread out to ensure they roast properly. Stir it all together with the maple syrup, and season with salt and ground black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing them over a couple of times at intervals throughout to ensure they cook evenly. You want the sprouts to have taken on some colour and a very little char, and the garlic to be soft and roasted all the way through.
While your sprouts are cooking, fry the pancetta until it is cooked through in a non-stick frying pan. Remove, and set to one side on kitchen paper.
Fry the chestnuts in the leftover pancetta fat with a little butter for 5 minutes or so until they have crisped up a little, and then set to one side on kitchen paper to drain.
In a separate frying pan, lightly dry toast the walnuts over a medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, to release the flavours. This step is optional (especially if you’re making these at Christmas and may be low on pans!), I just like the flavour and texture that toasting gives the nuts.
When your sprouts are ready, remove from the oven and crumble in the blue cheese and pancetta, and stir through the chestnuts and walnuts. Serve warm from the oven.