I’ve always loved warm winter salads. Especially when they include shards of crispy bacon. Take a closer look, the star of this salad is the humble, much maligned Brussels Sprout. Cleverly deconstructed into leaves and hearts and roasted in a little bacon fat to golden perfection. Tossed with a cast of supporting elements; crispy bacon, roasted slivers of apple, crunchy hazelnuts, and tender grains of farro to produce an incredibly delicious salad. Finished with a final flourish of a good drizzle of syrupy aged balsamic and a shower of coarsely grated parmesan cheese, for further effect.
Bacon fat on a 5-2 fast day you ask? I know it sounds counter intuitive but in this salad, used judiciously it most definitely works. Of course I used a leaner short cut of bacon in this recipe, on further reflection thin slices of prosciutto would make a stunning substitution. The trick is to use no more than two tablespoons of the rendered fat from the crispy bacon to lightly coat your Brussels Sprouts and add bags of flavour to the final dish. I like to use the same tray I used for my bacon to extract even more goodness from the brown nubbly bits left behind on the baking paper.
There are so many delicious layers of texture in this salad that even the most avid Brussels sprouts naysayer in this house was happy to give it a try. Distracted no doubt by the inviting aroma of those crispy bacon shards. I’ve never truly understood why these gorgeous little emerald nuggets have been so maligned. Perhaps because I’ve never experienced them boiled into an infamously grey sulphurous sodden state. I personally like to think of them as tight and bright cute little miniature cabbages. At least that’s how I describe them to my family. Brussels sprouts are in season and in plentiful supply at the markets at the moment, so will be appearing on many of their meal time plates over the next few months.
Interestingly, I first prepared this salad as part of a non fast day long weekend lunch, ostensibly to prove how wonderful Brussels sprouts could truly be. It was so popular and deliciously filling that after a little careful calorie counting I decided to recreate it as a 5-2 fast day offering. Try it. I know you won’t be disappointed.
Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad With Crispy Bacon, Apple, Hazelnuts and Farro
Serves 4 (254 calories per serve)
20 large (500g) Brussels sprouts (215 calories)
1/4 cup dry farro perlato (pearl barley) or substitute quinoa (176 calories)
1 small granny smith apple (55 calories)
6 short cut (lean) rashers bacon, rind removed (276 calories)
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted in a hot pan and coarsely chopped (240 calories)
a good drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar (10 calories)
2 tablespoons coarsely grated parmesan (44 calories)
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
To Cook Farro
COOK the farro (pearl barley) in plenty of salted water according to the instructions on the packet (as a rule of thumb using three times the volume of water to grain), until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain and set aside to cool.
To Roast Apples
PREHEAT oven to 120 C fan-forced. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.
SLICE unpeeled apples very thinly on a mandolin. I like to use a small apple no wider than the mandolin to achieve perfect slices.I used an apple corer to remove the pips before slicing. If you don’t have an apple corer, simply remove pips from the apples once sliced.
ARRANGE apple slices in a single layer on the prepared oven tray.
BAKE for 20-30 minutes in a slow preheated oven. Flipping the apple slices halfway through baking. The apple slices will cook from the outside in and continue to crisp up once removed from the oven.
REMOVE tray from oven and leave to cool.
To Roast Bacon
INCREASE temperature to 180 C once the apples have been removed from the oven. Line another large oven tray with baking paper.
PLACE the bacon rashers in an even layer on the tray. Bake in hot oven for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden.
REMOVE the bacon from the tray to a kitchen paper lined plate. Allow to cool before crumbling into shards. Set aside.
DRAIN the bacon fat from the oven tray, reserving 2 tablespoons to roast the Brussels Sprouts. Use this tray for roasting.
To Roast Brussels Sprouts
USING a sharp paring knife, trim the stems off the brussels sprouts and peel away the outer leaves into a large bowl, discarding any that are tough or blemished. Continue trimming the stems and peeling away the leaves, until the leaves no longer separate easily. Place the leaves and hearts of the brussels sprouts into separate bowls.
SLICE the brussels sprouts hearts in half. Toss with a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat until lightly coated. Arrange in an even layer over 1/3 of the oven tray.
TOSS the separated leaves with the remaining tablespoon of bacon fat until lightly coated. Arrange in an even layer over the remaining 2/3 of the tray.
Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and place in hot oven to roast for 10-15 minutes until the hearts are golden and leaves crispy.
REMOVE from oven and assemble the salad.
To Assemble Salad
TOSS roasted Brussels Sprouts leaves and hearts with cooked farro and three quarters of the roasted apples, crumbled bacon and toasted hazelnuts in a large bowl. Season with sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
TRANSFER salad to a large serving platter and scatter over remaining apples, bacon and hazelnuts. Finish with a good drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and a shower of grated Parmesan. Serve.