Monday, 21 November 2011

brussels sprouts w/chestnuts, bacon and parsley

I think I can say for sure that this recipe is the only one you'll ever see on this blog that contains bacon. I fully realise that it's not health food but Brussels sprout definitely is. A few years back, I was preparing for Christmas with the TV on in the background. Suddenly I recognised Nigella Lawson's voice. They were showing some Christmas cooking series and she was preparing a turkey meal. I quit what I was doing to watch the show. As we always cook turkey at Christmas Eve or Day, I was interested in ideas for side dishes. Before I knew it Nigella was mesmerising me with her Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and parsley. She of course makes everything look so easy and when I tried her recipe it really was. As I couldn't get pancetta I simply used luxury bacon and I've used it ever since. This side dish has become a tradition in our home at Christmas and we serve it with almost all our fancy meals. Believe it or not, our children love it. I think those who dislike Brussels sprouts simply haven't tasted Nigella's. As I never use butter I skip it and I usually skip the Marsala wine, so I'm making it optional. I often use chopped cashew nuts instead of chestnuts; it simply depends on my mood. Sometimes I use only about 800 g of Brussels sprouts, especially if I'm making many side dishes. Here is my version of Nigella's recipe but the link above will take you to the original one. Below are some notes on the difference.



  • 1 kg Brussels sprouts
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 200 g luxury bacon, preferably organic/free-range
  • 100-150 g vacuum-packed chestnuts or cashew nuts
  • optional: 4 tablespoons Marsala wine (60 ml)
  • 1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • optional: sea salt

According to Nigella's recipe you should use 250 g of pancetta cut into 1.25 cm (0.50 inches) cubes, but I find 200 g enough. According to her you should also use about 225 g chestnuts but I only use 100-150 g. Sometimes I use more; it sort of depends on what other side dishes I'm serving with the meal. There is no sea salt in Nigella's recipe, except that she boils the Brussels sprouts in salted water, but I like to sprinkle some on top.


  1. Slice the bottoms off each of the Brussels sprouts, cutting a cross on the base as you go. Place the Brussels sprouts into a large saucepan of salted boiling water and cook them for 5 minutes, or until they are tender but still retain a bit of bite
  2. While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, cut the slices of bacon but don't make them too small. If using cashew nuts instead of chestnuts, chop them in a food processor or with a knife
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the excess water. Allow the Brussels sprouts to sit in a colander until you use them (I like cutting them in half before adding them to the frying pan. If you have time I recommend it, but allow them to cool first)
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large clean saucepan or frying pan, add the cut slices of bacon and cook until they are crisp and golden-brown in colour, but not cooked to the point of having dried out
  5. Add more coconut oil if you need to and add the chestnuts (or the already chopped cashew nuts). Use a wooden spoon or spatula and press down on the chestnuts to break them up into pieces. Once the chestnuts have been warmed through, turn the heat up and add the Marsala wine to the pan, if you use it, and cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened slightly
  6. Add the Brussels sprouts and half the parsley to the saucepan and mix well (usually I add all the parsley to the saucepan or two-thirds)
  7. Season with freshly ground black pepper and before serving, sprinkle some sea salt on top and the remaining chopped parsley

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