I confess to having a problem with this vegetable, maybe due to some childhood memory of badly cooked sprouts. I prefer them wok-fried with lots of chilli and garlic, with each leaf pulled off separately and still crunchy to eat – partly because that way you can't really tell what you're eating! In the recipe here I specify dried chestnuts, but you can use fresh (or tinned as long as they aren't sweetened). The puree is perfect served with a roast or as part of a Christmas feast.
Drain the soaking liquid from the chestnuts and throw it away. Put the chestnuts into a deep pot with the bay leaf and pour on the milk, then add hot water to cover them by 4cm (1½in). Bring to the boil and turn down to a rapid simmer with the lid on. After 30 minutes add the leek, rosemary and garlic, adding extra water to cover them if necessary. Replace the lid and continue cooking until the chestnuts are tender; this can take up to 90 minutes in total.
Meanwhile, get a steamer boiling nicely and steam the brussels sprouts until they are cooked. Test by cutting a half sprout in two – it should cut easily. When the chestnuts are cooked drain them, reserving the liquid but discarding the bay leaf. Mix them with the brussels sprouts and purée in a food processer or force through a mouli, adding some of the cooking liquid if the mix is too dry. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve warm.
© 1997 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.