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.

Enjoy!

 sweet potato soup

Ok,  it’s not pumpkin but sweet potatoes are about as seasonal as you can get right now and very similar so you can try this one with any leftover pumpkins you have around. This soup is just perfect for this time of year. Warm and comforting, very moreish and almost filling enough to be dinner – if it’s not enough a cheese course afterwards will sort things out or there’s always the trick or treat bag……..

Pumpkin ghosts

Bacon is a brilliant foil for sweet potato. You get that lovely balance of sweet and salty. I added in a Parmesan rind for an extra savoury hit and I think that that’s what makes it so satisfying. I’ve been growing sage (is it me or is this one of the slowest growing herbs ever??) and decided to add a few leaves into the pot then fry some more til crunchy for the top. These really make it along with a little drizzle of sour cream. If you don’t have sage no worries, some toasted pumpkin seeds make a great topping too. All in all, most satisfying and ready in a decidedly unscary 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato soup with pancetta topped with crispy sage and sour cream (enough for 2-3 hungry people or 4 as a starter)

You’ll need:

Olive oil

2 onions roughly chopped

100gr pancetta or streaky bacon chopped

600gr sweet potato peeled and cubed

6 or 7 sage leaves

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

1 Parmesan rind roughly 4cm x 4 cm

To garnish:

10-12 sage leaves

Vegetable oil for frying

A little sour cream

Begin by heating a generous glug of olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and let them fry gently for about 2 minutes before throwing in the bacon. Continue cooking over a low to medium heat until things start to really soften and change colour. If you haven’t already prepared them, this is the time to get the sweet potato ready. When the bacon and onions have nicely darkened to a lovely golden brown tip in the sweet potatoes and sage leaves. Stir everything together and slightly brown the sweet potatoes before pouring in the stock. Season with a generous pinch of salt, add the Parmesan rind then bring everything to the boil. Lower the heat then simmer for about 20 minutes until the spud has softened. Take off the heat and let things cool down a bit before blending til smooth. Check the seasoning, adding black pepper, more salt if you think it needs and even a squirt of lemon juice if feel a little kick is called for(up to you).

To finish

Heat a little vegetable oil in a small pan. Fry the sage leaves til crispy. Drizzle a teaspoon of sour cream on top of each soup bowl then finish with a few sage leaves.

Celery…..

This week all our bags have a head of celery from Marc Michel’s Organic Life farm. It’s not everyone’s favourite I know, but it is brilliant behind the scenes flavour builder in soups and stews. Chop a few stalks and fry it up with the onions when you start (and that goes for this week’s recipe top) for a more rounded finished dish.

It’s lovely in a simple salad with walnuts and  Parmesan shavings dressed with lemon juice and olive oil but if you want something a bit more robust the recipe I posted last year for a stew with chorizo is so tasty I promise it will convert any celery hater.

Have a brilliant Hallowe’en,

Sarah

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

Breadcrumbs

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,

Sarah

All this snow is really wearing thin at this stage. Getting to and from work usually means a hop on the bike for 10 minutes. These days it’s taking up to an hour. Need to pop to the shops? It’ll take so long that you’ll have forgotten what you need by the time you get there.  I think I’m over snow! With all this trying not to break my neck I don’t really have a whole lot of time (or energy) when it comes to cooking dinner. This week’s recipe is one I put together in about 10 minutes. Dan and I had scored a rake of Christmas movies in the charity shop (so glad we kept the video machine!) on the way home from school earlier on that day and I got this soup in the pot literally in the time it took all the “coming soon” bits to play. It’s sweet potato, coconut milk and red lentils with Thai spices. I used a green curry paste, Nam pla (Thai fish sauce) and a few kaffir lime leaves which you can get in the Asian shops or any decent deli. Yum Yum. I love these flavours. The great things about red lentils is that they take the same time as most root veg to cook so are brilliant for soups. Once you have fried the onions and garlic, added the spices you basically throw everything else in and let the heat do the rest.

Thai scented sweet potato soup with coconut and lime

You’ll need:

2 medium onions chopped

4-5 cloves garlic chopped

Vegetable oil – coconut is great if you have it

3 kaffir lime leaves

1 heaped teaspoon green curry paste

1 tin coconut milk

1 teaspoon Nam pla (Thai fish sauce) – vegetarians can leave this out, the soup will still taste great

3 teaspoons light soy sauce

600gr sweet potato peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 cup of red lentils

First off, stick the lentils in some water to lift any dust. I find this works better than simply rinsing. Heat some vegetable oil in a soup pot. If you’re using coconut oil, a generous tablespoon will do. Add the onions to the pot and fry over a gentle heat for a few minutes until soft and golden. Throw in the garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and lime leaves and cook for a minute then tip in the coconut milk. Heat everything gently then add the Nam pla and soy sauce. At this stage put on the kettle and while the water is heating, add the sweet potato and lentils to the pot. Stir everything well then add a litre of hot water. Bring everything to the boil then lower to a simmer and cook for another 25 minutes until the sweet potato and lentils are cooked. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Fish out the lime leaves then blast til smooth with your hand blender. To serve a spritz of lime juice is about all you need but if you want to go fancy you could toast a little coconut and sprinkle that on top too.  As usual I put a bowl of brown rice on the table so everyone gets nice and full. Enjoy!

Burritos

It’s been ages since I made chili and I really don’t know why I left it so long. It always goes down a storm (we had it last night and everyone wants it again this evening). From little more than 2 cups of beans, some tinned tomatoes and a few onions you can feed up to 10 people depending on how you serve it. I think the IMF would approve – shouldn’t joke but until we get our heads around this madness what else is there?

Chili has to be one of the most versatile dishes. You can serve it straight up or with any combination of rice, guacamole, jalapeno, grated cheese, burritos, tacos, lettuce and/or salsa. Water it down and you have the perfect winter soup especially fab when topped with some nachos, sour cream and cheese. I really could eat this stuff every day.

This week I’ve gone for a different approach. As we have sweet potatoes, I thought I’d do something with them. I roasted them and they went  into a burrito with the chilli, along with a dollop of sour cream, lots of coriander and a generous spritz of lime. Absolutely delicious and very, very addictive. Make plenty because one or two probably won’t  be enough……..

This recipe is for 2 or 3 people but you’ll have lots of chili leftover (there’s no point in making a smaller quantity). Not to worry, it keeps really well in the fridge for a few days or you can bag it up and stick it in the freezer for the ultimate easy dinner some day in the future (ok, Monday) when you just can’t face cooking…..

Black bean chili – enough for 6-10 people

You’ll need:

2 cups black beans aka turtle beans – for these you’ll need to hit your local health food shop.If you can’t get them, kidney beans will do but you’ll miss out on the amazing chocolate colour the chilli goes with the turtle beans

Turtle beans

1 bay leaf

4 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 teaspoons oregano

4 paprika

4 bird’s eye chilis – less if you don’t like heat at all (it’s not very hot with 4) and more if you do.

3/4 medium onions roughly chopped

Vegetable oil

5 cloves garlic roughly chopped

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Soak the beans overnight then rinse before you are ready to start. Cover them in about  5cms cold water, drop in the bay leaf then bring to the boil.

While this is going on, prepare the spices – toast the cumin seeds and oregano in a pan over a medium heat. Toss the pan as you go so nothing gets burnt. As soon as you get the first whiff of the roasting spices add the paprika and chilli. Keep tossing for a moment then take off the heat. Allow to cool slighty then grind the spices together either with a mortar and pestle or a small coffee grinder as Ido. When you have a coarse powder set aside for later.

At this stage the beans should be at boiling point and if you don’t cook beans regularly you’ll probably be disgusted by all the foamy stuff floating in your pot. Don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal, just skim it off. Turn down the heat and leave the beans simmering.

Using a large pot saute the onions in a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat until they soften. This will take about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and keep cooking until they’ve softened too. Now add your spices along with a generous pinch of salt. Keeping tossing for a few minutes then add the tomatoes. Cook everything for about 15 minutes then add to the beans. Stir everything together then cook for about another 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Roasted Sweet Potato and black bean chili burrito with sour cream, coriander and lime

You’ll need:

2 cups black bean chili (see above)

500gr sweet potatoes

Vegetable oil

Sour cream

A large handful coriander roughly chopped

Lime

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into slices about 1cm thick. Toss in a little vegetable oil then put in a roasting dish then into a medium oven (Gas mark 6) . The slices will take about 30- 40  minutes to roast and you’ll need to toss them halfway through to make sure they do evenly.When they’re ready, heat up the chili and wrap the burritos in some tin foil and pop them into the oven for about 5-6  mins to warm. When everything’s ready, prepare the burritos by spooning some chili down the centre. Top with a few slices of sweet potatoes, a dollop of sour cream and a generous amount of coriander (I can never get enough of this stuff) and finally some lime juice. Wrap up and eat immediately (but you knew that didn’t you?) Enjoy!!!!

It’s officially spring but as we all know that isn’t the actual case yet. This week’s recipe is for a warming stew perfect for these chilly evenings………

Sweet Potato Stew

You’ll need:

1 medium onion chopped

Olive oil

2 fat cloves garlic

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoons cumin seeds

680gr Pasata (a full jar). If you don’t have this a tin of chopped tomatoes would also do fine Read the rest of this entry »

I know I dropped the ball on the whole healthy eating thing for the new year by proposing roast chicken with lots of trimmings for dinner last week but it was snowing. This week I’m making up for it with …….. ginger. Fantastic for digestion (pregnant ladies take note), ginger is also great for colds and flus and is reckoned to have properties which fight headaches and period pains. We often drink ginger tea in our house especially over the winter months and it’s so easy to make. Slice about an inch of ginger and simmer it in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Serve with honey and lemon juice.  It’s also fantastic in juices and carrot and ginger is a classic. Take 3 or 4 carrots and juice with a small piece of ginger – juice and drink immediately. You can throw an apple or orange in there if you’d like some more sweetness.

Ginger is  the basis of a great dipping sauce that is just fab with veggies like broccoli, green beans, courgette, peppers, sweet potato or butternut squash. Add  tahini, a paste made from crushed sesame seeds which you can get in your health food shop or any Middle Eastern shop which gives it a beautiful nutty flavour, with soy sauce and honey. Completely addictive it’ll definitely give you a reason to eat plenty of veggies. I’m not really one for special kitchen gadgets or tools but I can’t recommend getting a proper ginger grater highly enough if you like these kind asian flavours. It’ll separate all the stringiness from the ginger pulp. I got mine in Muji and we use it just about every week.

Ginger and Soy Dipping sauce

2 Tablespoons Light Tahini

2 Tablespoons Soy or Tamari

1 Teaspoon Honey

2 Teaspoons grated Ginger

4 Tablespoons hot water

Fancy something a little special? This week’s sweet potato is great in tempura. I combined it with broccoli and served it with that yummy dipping sauce. The proportions below will make enough for 4 people as a starter or a lunch for 2 very hungry people. The trick with tempura is to get the batter as light as possible. For this I use self-raising flour and sparkling water. Don’t make it too ahead of time as the air leaches out and you lose the lightness.

Tempura of Sweet Potato and Broccoli

The  Batter:

200gr Self-raising Flour

1 1/4 cups sparkling water

A pinch fine salt

The veg:

200gr Sweet Potato

200gr Broccoli

and…..

Vegetable oil

First of all prepare the dipping sauce as described above then get on with the veg. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into slices about 1 cm thick. Break the broccoli into bite-size florets and set aside. Whisk the flour, salt and sparkling water together. Heat about 3 cm of vegetable oil in the pan when you can get a drop of the tempura batter to sizzle it’s hot enough and you’re ready to go.

When you’re ready to cook, coat each piece of veg in batter and drop into the oil. This is a messy business and if you’re confident with chopsticks I find a large set is the way to go. If not just rinse you’re hands as needed. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or things will start to stick together. Last night I filled the pan 3 times to get through all the veg. This of course means that someone has to stand over the pan while other people get to tuck in as tempura is best eaten immediately. You can of course munch while you keep an eye on the pan or use 2 pans if you want to completely relax over your dinner. Generally it’ll take about 2 minutes on each side to get the tempura golden and that’s just the way you want it. Enjoy!!

This weeks’ oranges are the Moro Blood variety which are only for a couple of months each year and are especially popular. If you’d like to get a box to keep in good supply  just let us know and we’ll drop them with your bag next week. Like the other ones they cost 15E per 6.5k.

Have a great weekend,

Sarah