“We can fit you in, but you’ll need to wait about an hour. Can I take your mobile number?” I over-heard the waiter say to the woman standing in front of me. It’s the expression you hear an awful lot in Sydney, these days, as so many restaurants have abandoned the booking system. Thankfully, since there were just two of us, they were able to accommodate us fairly easily. “My friend will be here shortly”, I re-assured the waiter. “Don’t worry. We can find a space for you next to the brussel sprouts”, she replied.
As well as being a fabulous Italian restaurant, Fratelli Fresh is also a fabulous gourmet supermarket. In practice, that meant they’ve placed a few additional tables away from the main restaurant area deep within the aisles of the supermarket. “What have you got over there?”, I asked my friend. While she was seated next to a few supermarket tubs of eggplant and parsnip, I was seated next to a large supermarket tub of brussel sprouts.
In contrast to the experience many Australians of a similar age and background I grew up loving brussel sprouts. As schoolfriends, and later adult friends, complained about brussel sprouts, I could never quite understand their apparent disgust. I’ve never been able to understand “fussy eaters”. Even now, when I hear people say things like, “I don’t eat vegetables”, or “I don’t eat avocado” (or similar phrases), I’ve never really understood how you could be like that.
I can’t remember where I was, but the other week I overheard a father order on behalf of his young son and tell the waiter… “He’ll have the same but without vegetables”. As I’ve never been a parent, I don’t really understand the difficulties of ordering food for children, but when I heard the father say that I felt slightly angry. If I was slightly more crazy than I am, I would have shouted out an instruction that the son would be having vegetables, and he wouldn’t be leaving the restaurant until he cleaned the plate.
Although you sometimes hear stories about children forced by their parents to “clean the plate”, I was never like that. My mum would often joke that, as a child, I was a “garbage guts”. I could be guaranteed to clean off the contents of my plate, as well as any other nearby plate. Growing up I had a niece who hated peas. As her mother went through the ritual of forcing her my niece to clean off the plate and eat the peas, I felt myself wanting to say, “Don’t make her eat the peas. Just give them to me. I’ll finish off the plate…”
Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to the brussel sprouts. Although my friend and I only dine two or three times a year at Fratelli Fresh, there’s one dish they have which we always enjoy and order. It’s called a Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Pancetta and Poached Egg, and although the recipe is available on their website, I thought I’d share it here also.
Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Pancetta and Poached Egg
60g baby cavolo nero leaves
100g brussel sprouts, trimmed and shaved finely
1 medium spanish onion
200ml lemon vinaigrette
1 head cos lettuce, trimmed and washed
6 slices prosciutto, baked until crispy
60g parmigiano reggiano, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 soft poached eggs
20ml balsamic vinegar
1. Place cavolo nero, sprouts and onion in a mixing bowl.
2. Season and dress with 2/3 of the vinaigrette. Set aside for 10 minutes.
3. Add cos, prosciutto, cheese and remaining vinaigrette. Toss gently and season to taste. Divide onto 4 plates and top each with an egg.
4. Drizzle over balsamic and serve immediately.