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Brussels sprouts are one vegetable I’ve never grown, and never really seen the need to grow.  I have thought about growing them but, so far, the reasons not to outweigh those in favour.  We don’t eat a lot of sprouts, I’ve always assumed that home grown sprouts don’t taste that much better than the ones from the shops, and also thought they if are as much of a pain to grow as the rest of the brassica family it probably wasn’t worth the effort.  The only brassica I like enough to persevere with growing is kale.  On the whole, I find brassicas hard going – they need to be netted to keep the pigeons and caterpillars from making a meal of them.  And this year, after I had carefully netted the young plants, they were munched away to nothing by the slugs.  So, until someone can convince me that there really are great benefits to growing sprouts, these vegetables won’t be finding a space in my veg plot.

Sprouts

There is a slight possibility that finding the right recipe would change my mind – food is always a good incentive.  And after reading Vanesther’s wonderful sounding recipe for Stilton, ham and brussel sprout tart (the photos look pretty good too), I was inspired to try using sprouts in a flan.  I did make a few changes to Vanesther’s recipe – walnuts instead of ham to make it vegetarian, and Wensleydale in place of the Stilton to make it acceptable to the picky eaters in the family who don’t like blue cheese.  Oh, and shredding the sprouts so that they weren’t immediately recognisable as – well sprouts.  But despite all my interfering with the original recipe, the result was a tart that would be perfect to serve at Christmas.

Sprout and walnut tart

Then came another challenge – we have some friends coming over at Christmas, and one of them follows a gluten free diet.  So for the tart to be suitable for everyone, I needed a recipe for gluten-free pastry.  First stop for information was another friend who has experience in these matters, having eaten gluten-free for some years.  Her advice was to steer well clear of pastry involving gluten-free wheat flours – something to do with them generally having all the taste and texture of packaging cardboard.  A quick search on the internet came up with a whole heap of gluten-free pastry ideas, including this one from Green Kitchen Stories using gram flour, which is naturally gluten free, and ground almonds – it sounded perfect.  A few adaptations down the line and here we have it, a gluten-free pastry that tastes good and has a nice crispy texture.  Just add your favourite tart filling – although I would recommend giving the sprouts a try…

Gluten free pastry

Gluten-free pastry

(makes enough pastry to line four cm (31/2 “) mini tart cases – with some left over to make four jam tarts)

100g gram flour

50g ground almonds

2 tbsp cornflour (some cornflours have wheat flour added – best to check the ingredient list)

60g unsalted butter, cubed

½ tsp fine sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tbsp icy cold water

Put the gram flour, ground almonds and cornflour into a bowl and stir to mix everything.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Season with salt and a good grinding of black pepper, then add just enough ice cold water to bring the mixture together into a firm dough.

Wrap the pastry in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out and baking.

I used the pastry to line small tins to make individual-sized tarts.  The pastry shells were filled with a layer of shredded sprouts and chopped walnuts, and topped with some crumbled Wensleydale.  Eggs, cream and grated nutmeg finished them off, and they were baked for about 20 minutes at 190oC.  What filling would you choose?

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