Two years ago, I was on a press trip to promote a quintessentially festive record, in possibly one of the least-Christmassy places on the planet: Santa Monica, a beachfront city west of Los Angeles and the gateway to the Pacific Ocean.
I would say I had high hopes for the type of food I might be eating at my former company’s expense, but I’d spent a week in the same part of town a few years prior, so I had already lowered my expectations by the time I arrived at Gatwick Airport for my outbound flight.
After three days of mostly pasta, quesadillas and bread, I tapped ‘vegetables’ into Google Maps in my desperate search for vitamins. It led me around the corner to a fast-food place called sweetgreen, and at the top of the menu was a Brussels sprout-centric winter salad which had immediate appeal.
Being mid-November, the dish had a distinctly Thanksgiving-y vibe, with roasted sprouts, sliced apples, caramelised squash, dried cranberries and a sweet, mustardy dressing. It was, with the exception of a particularly good Reuben sandwich, the best thing I ate on that trip.
I recently found myself thinking about that salad, and how good it felt to get sunburnt so close to Christmas, so I decided to make my own version. I find apples a bit overpowering in this recipe, preferring the delicate sweetness and crunch of conference pears, which pair perfectly with the punchy Blue Stilton. Figs are in season from November, so I’ve addd these in place of the dried cranberries for a splash of colour. The whole almonds didn’t work for me, so my recipe calls for flaked (Californian, obvs). It’s a really light, sweet winter salad that (quote) “doesn’t actually taste like sprouts”.
Shredded sprout salad with fig, pear & Stilton
Serves 4 as a side salad
500g Brussels sprouts
2 conference pears, on the firm side
50g Blue Stilton
2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
Generous handful of pea shoots or similar mild salad leaves, per person
For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp clear honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Step one: Cut off the stalk of each sprout and remove the outer leaves. Slice thinly. Peel conference pears and dice into rough 1cm cubes, discarding the core and stem. Quarter the ripe figs and scoop out the flesh, avoiding the white pith.
Step two: Put the raw ingredients into a large bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl or mug, whisk together the oil, mustard, honey, lemon juice and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. When combined, drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and mix well.
Step three: Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth or tea towel and leave for up to 60 minutes while the raw veg soaks in the dressing (tip: look out for when the sprouts have softened, but haven’t turned mushy). To serve, toss in any extra salad leaves when plating up. Crumble the Stilton over the salad and add a generous sprinkle of toasted, flaked almonds. Drizzle on any leftover dressing.