Delicious VEG Staples #7: Brussels sprouts, breadcrumbs and parmesan pasta

In the seventh post of our VEG Staples series, Sue Barker, leader of MRSG Sustainable Homes Action Group shares a little about herself and one of her current favourite winter staples.

There are so many great reasons to eat more veg, more often. Reducing GHG emissions, improving health, saving money and preventing animal suffering are just some of the reasons for the growing interest in plant-based meals.

It can be a little daunting to get started - particularly if you usually cook with meat. To give you some inspiration, the VEG Action Group has developed the VEG Staples series. If you would like to share veg recipes and feedback on this series, join our facebook group: Eat More Veg Macedon Ranges

Tell us a little about yourself

I'm a building design student and I'm the leader of MRSG Sustainable Homes Action Group. MRSG is supporting five open houses this year. We're currently preparing for Sustainable House Day, which is on Sunday September 15th. My husband and I are opening our house. It's an average brick veneer with a great aspect and terrible thermal performance. We've been working on making it warmer in winter. In July this year we used less than 50% of the electricity we used in July 2018 - and felt more comfortable.

I'd describe my household as flexitarian: we do eat meat but it's a small part of our diet. I became interested in food and cooking when I was in my twenties.

Learning to cook accelerated for me when we lived in Singapore for a few years. With unfamiliar ingredients everywhere and familiar ones not always easy to come by, I became quite skilled at putting together dishes based on what I had to hand.

I started following Ottolenghi's column "The New Vegetarian" in The Guardian online and Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. Most meat was quite expensive so we ate less of it, and that habit has stuck since we returned to Australia.

What are the main considerations you have when planning your meals?

I am a fairly "spur of the moment" cook, devising meals based on what we have on hand. I shop according to what's in season, so we eat seasonally.

I like to cook extra so we have leftovers, either to use as a starting point or an ingredient in a completely different meal (see next question) or to freeze for later when time is against us.

What are your favourite ingredients to work with and why? 

Leftovers!! I love the creative challenge. We rarely have the same things left over: sometimes there might be some mashed potato or some roasted veges or a cooked grain, or just some toasted seeds. As a result, we have plenty of variety in our diet.

Can you tell us a little about one of your staple dishes?

Brussels sprouts, breadcrumbs and parmesan on pasta.

190822 Sue Barker brussel sprout pasta.JPG
This dish has convinced a few people that Brussels sprouts can actually be delicious.

I usually use bucatini with this because I like the way its robust strands play off against the assertive sprouts, but if you're not adept at winding the strands, just use a shortcut pasta like penne.

Take 6-7 sprouts per person, trim and cut a cross in the base, steam them until they are tender to the point of a knife. Remove from pan and put water on to boil for pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, cut the sprouts into quarters then fry them in a bit of butter (or plant based alternative) and olive oil to get some browning. Throw in a good handful of big breadcrumbs. It's probably best if they are a bit dry, but I usually just cut a thickish slice of sourdough and break it up into pinky-sized bits. Grind on some black pepper. While a helper drains and serves the pasta, toss in some freshly-grated parmesan (or plant based alternative) - stir quickly and hard as it will cook on the bottom of the pan (which is part of the joy of the dish). Put the sprouts, crumbs and cheese on top of the pasta, scrape out as much of the browned cheese from the pan as you can, add a bit more parmesan on top and enjoy.

 Is there anything you’d like to cook more of and why? 

Looking at my bookshelves suggests I hanker to bake more. I'd love to be able to cook more produce from our garden. Food grown on healthy soil tastes great and delivers a pleasurable eating experience. The broad beans and artichokes last spring were sensational and I'm looking forward to them again this year.

Thanks so much for sharing with us Sue! Comment on this recipe and share others on our facebook page: Eat More Veg Macedon Ranges

If you’d like to help out for a couple of hours on sustainable house day please get in touch with Sue here. They've worked hard on preparation and the day should be fun and rewarding.

If you have a favourite staple you’d like to share, get in contact with Claire at