Sweet Potato salad

When the days are short and the weather cold it’s so easy to reach for heavier food in the evening. A warm salad is a way of bridging the gap between what the body seems to crave and what it actually needs (ie a bit of post Christmas restraint) Thankfully, my post Christmas back to  juicing habit seems to make resisting the stodge easier which is a start.

I used this week’s sweet potatoes last night to make a filling warm salad with some of my favourite middle Eastern flavours.First of all, I parboiled then roasted chunks of  potato then tossed them with a couple of handfuls of super fresh rocket. Then for crunch I made some garlic and cumin scented toasted breadcrumbs which I tossed in the pan with some sultanas before throwing them oven the sweet potato. With all that going on, I kept the dressing simple – extra virgin olive and sherry vinegar (but red wine or cider would have worked well I reckon as well). A final drizzle of pomegranate molasses gave a lovely sweet and sour finishing touch.

It’s the kind of salad that you can eat on it’s own but which works really well with lots of other bits – we ate it with a bowl of quinoa, a simple beetroot and blood orange salad and some parsnip fritters (more on those anon) other partners would be things like hummus, falafel, some simple pan-fried fish, goat’s cheese or feta, some lightly steamed broccoli tossed in sliced pan-fried garlic and chilli, cous cous, a Spanish omelette…. you know the drill.

Roasted sweet potato salad with rocket topped with garlic and cumin scented breadcrumbs and pomegranate molasses

You’ll need:

500gr sweet potato peeled and cut into cubes

Olive oil for roasting

70gr (2 handfuls) rocket or any other salad leaves you prefer

4 heaped tablespoons dry coarse breadcrumbs

1 fat clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

A small handful sultanas

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar

To garnish: A generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses

Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and parboil the sweet potatoes. Drain and toss in olive oil in a roasting tray then place in the oven for about 30 minutes (give them a toss half way through to make sure they roast evenly) while you get on with the rest of the salad. Wash and dry the rocket and set aside. If it’s very stalky,  you may want trim it a bit as you go.

Make some breadcrumbs with old bread or use your usual stash (I normally have some in the freezer but didn’t yesterday).I made them quite chunky so they wouldn’t soften too much when mixed with the dressing and lose their crunch. I also stuck them in the oven for a couple of minutes to dry them out a bit more.  Heat 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil on a pan then push the clove of garlic through the crusher and add that along with the cumin seeds. After about a minute when you can see the garlic beginning to soften, throw on the breadcrumbs.Toss until they have absorbed all the oil and crisped up a little more then throw in the sultanas and mix everything together then take off the pan.

When the sweet potatoes are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool slightly. Make the dressing by whisking the oil and vinegar together with a tiny pinch of salt.

To put the salad together, toss the rocket and sweet potatoes together then add the dressing and toss again. Top with the toasted breadcrumbs and sultanas then generously drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.



Finally it’s Friday and I am so ready for the weekend. We’ve had visitors over from Barcelona and have been flat out eating, drinking and going to bed late then getting up to Dan to school, Auggie to the creche then ourselves to work. Bleary-eyed doesn’t come close to how I’ve been feeling these last few days. I’m ready for a beer, a movie and not much else this evening. This week’s recipe is for having with that Friday night beer – mini sweet potato cakes.

There’s nothing like fried food with beer but these aren’t heavy or greasy. I use those Japanese breadcrumbs to coat the cakes so they’re lovely and crispy (once your oil is fresh you’ll get a good result with any breadcrumbs though). Lightly perfumed with cumin and coriander seeds with a little Feta for tang, these guys are perfect for munching on while you relax and figure the weekend out. We’re getting some proper kitchen cupboards in next Tuesday so there’s all kinds of stuff to be done to get ready for that including yet another trip to Ikea, deciding on paints (it’s Mannix Flynn green on one wall then the others will be an off-white and boy is that proving tricky- does the world really need that many off whites?) plus Paul’s playing tunes in town tomorrow night ……..phew!!! I don’t think there are enough hours for all this but I’ll figure out how it’s all going to happen tomorrow.

These cakes are easy. Steam or boil the spud, fry up an onion with the spices and chilli then mix the two together with a little yogurt (takes some of the sugary intensity out of the sweet potato) and Feta. Then you make them into little cakes. Something a little shy of macaroon size is perfect for beers but you can make them a little bigger if you like aswell.

This week’s gorgeous baby salad leaves from the Healys in Wicklow picked at the crack of dawn for us (thanks a million guys!!) are a perfect complement. Serve the cakes on a bed of leaves which you can drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses (I’m so loving this stuff) or lemon juice. The final touch is some pomegranate seeds. Like sweet potatoes, pomegranate is big in the Middle East and fits right in with these flavours plus it looks so pretty and I’m such a sucker for good colours. Our mediterranean selections all have one this week (it’s the leathery thing you might be wondering about).

To extract the fruit the trick is to roll them on a flat surface before you cut into them. Apply some pressure while you do this but not too much or you’ll bruise the seeds. This loosens up the seeds inside. Quarter the fruit, then simply loosen the ruby seeds from the creamy pith and you’re set. They are fab in any fruit salad and make a great addition to any cous cous dish – on Wednesday night we had one with lots of parsley, Feta and some toasted pumpkin seeds – gorgeous.

Crispy sweet potatoes cakes

You’ll need:

600gr sweet potatoes

2 small onion (or 1 medium) finely chopped

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 green chilli finely chopped

Olive oil

2 tablespoons natural yogurt

1/2 lemon

60gr Feta cheese

Plain flour

1 egg


Vegetable oil for frying

To serve:

Pomegranate molasses or lemon wedges

Begin by peeling the sweet potatoes. Chop them into large chunks then boil or steam for about 12 minutes until nice and tender. While they’re cooking get the onions on a pan over a medium heat with olive oil. Put the spices in a morter and roughly crush them. You don’t need to do much, just enough to release the lovely perfume of the coriander really. When the onions start to soften, add the spices and green chilli. Continue cooking until the onions have properly softened and started to change colour. At this stage your sweet potato will be done. Take it off the heat and let it cool down a bit before you mash it adding salt and pepper as you go. Stir in the onions, yougurt and a good spritz of lemon juice. Mix well then crumble in the Feta. Taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. At this stage you can get going on the frying or cover the mix and keep it for later in the fridge. If you’re ready to go form little medallions then dip first in flour then beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs. Heat about 3cm oil in the pan and when it’s ready slip the patties in and fry until golden on each side. This will take about 2 minutes. When they’re done sit them on kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil then open those beers and sit back.

As I said, a salad of green leaves and pomogranate seeds is a gorgeous foil for these cakes. Wash and dry the leaves and pile onto a plate. Top with the seeds and a drizzle of pomogranate molasses or lemon juice. Yum yum!!!

Funny looking carrots

The carrots in your bag this week are unwashed (boo!) but don’t neglect them. Peel them and you’ll see that underneath they are a dark crimson, almost beetroot, colour on the outside then orangey yellow underneath. They have way more beta-carotene than the normal ones so are definitely worth eating sooner rather than later. Not much different tastewise, maybe a little sweeter. Just thought it might be nice to check them out. They come from Philip Dreaper’s farm in Birr Co. Offaly.

Have a great weekend,