Sweet and Sour Sprouts – Ottolenghi – Flavour

Something magical happens to the sprouts, chestnuts and grapes when they are left to soak with each other in a bath of Shaoxing, soy sauce and their own natural juices. A subtle sharp sweetness, with hints of bitterness, gradually emerges, giving the dish a real festive quality. It’s Shaoxing rice wine that makes the greatest impact, with its complex sweetness and depth. This Chinese wine, fermented from rice, is available in most Asian supermarkets, but if you can’t get hold of it, use pale dry sherry instead.

The sprouts and chestnuts make this dish an obvious candidate for a Christmas feast. Luckily, you can easily get ahead by cooking the shallots, garlic, chestnuts and grapes the day before and leaving them to sit in the liquids overnight (refrigerated). The Brussels sprouts should be roasted and added to the bath the day you plan to serve the dish. Hold off on adding the pickled chillies and parsley until you serve.


12 small shallots (240g), peeled and left whole (220g)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
250g ready-cooked and peeled chestnuts
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp maple syrup
130ml olive oil
90ml Shaoxing rice wine (or pale dry sherry)
60ml soy sauce
180g red grapes
800g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthways
2 green chillies, finely sliced into rounds
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
3 tbsp picked parsley leaves
Essential kit

You will need: a large 34cm x 26cm high-sided roasting tin.


1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan.

2. Put the first five ingredients into a large 34cm x 26cm high-sided roasting tin with 100ml of the oil, 75ml of the Shaoxing rice wine and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Cover tightly with foil and cook for 35 minutes, until the shallots are soft but still hold their shape. Stir in the grapes, cover again with foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the roasting tin from the oven, take off the foil and set the tin aside while you prepare the sprouts. Increase the temperature to 220°C fan.

3. Mix the sprouts with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt, then spread out on two parchment-lined baking trays. Roast for 16 minutes, switching the trays halfway through, until the sprouts are browned. Add the sprouts to the tin of grapes and chestnuts, gently mix everything together and leave, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour, if you can, or at least 30 minutes, for the flavours to develop.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the chillies with the rice vinegar, sugar and ⅛ teaspoon of salt and leave to pickle for at least 30 minutes.

5. Once the Brussels sprouts have sat for a while, stir in the remaining tablespoon of Shaoxing rice wine and the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Stir through the parsley and transfer to a large, shallow serving bowl. Top with the pickled chillies and the pickling liquid and serve.

Serves Four as a side.

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