Tag Archives: vegeterian

Spiced Tomato Jam

It’s a public holiday today in London – but my visions of a warm day at the beach or in the country were knocked on the head by the lashing rain that appeared this morning! Making the most of an unexpected day in the house, I’ve finished sorting through three years worth of administration and vacuumed and generally tidied the house. I know – very rock’n’roll! Then the moment came to reverse all the good work in the kitchen by embarking on a spontaneous culinary exploit.

So, forgetting the rain, today was also the start of what might be tentatively called “festive baking” as I’m making something that I’m looking forward to eating at Christmas – a sharp-but-sweet spicy tomato jam that is a great addition to a cheeseboard. It also means I can use some of our garden produce and enjoy them later in the year – our tomatoes were better this year than we managed last year (2014 yielded just three tomatoes!), but I’ve also got some big plans for next year to really get the most out of our garden. It might be small, but I’m determined to use it to grow useful things out there!

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This is actually somewhere between a sweet jam and a chutney – it sets and is made with a lot of sugar (like jam), and while it has spices, salt and vinegar that you’d expect in a chutney, it doesn’t have onions or sultanas. It is in turns fruity, sharp, tangy and savoury, with little bursts of flavour from the spices I used. It is absolutely delicious with strong cheddar on oatcakes or crackers, and a little goes a long way.

I made this using cherry tomatoes – partly the result of a glut that we’ve got in the garden at the moment, but you could just as easily do this with bigger tomatoes, red, yellow or even green. I cut half of the cherry tomatoes in two, and trimmed the rest into quarters so that there is some variation in size in the finished jam. If you’re using bigger toms, then you’ll need to chop them into smaller pieces, unless you’re the kind of person that enjoys really chunky jam! I also let the tomatoes cook down in a bit of water so that they break down a bit before adding the sugar. If you add the sugar with the tomatoes at the start of cooking, it can stop them breaking down and leave you with large lumps. This doesn’t affect the flavour, and I think is really just a matter of aesthetics.

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A word of warning – this recipe does not make a lot of jam, but that is not really an issue as you only need a little as it is packed with flavour. As it is easy to make, you can play around with different versions – I like nigella and cumin seeds, but you can also try aniseed or ginger and chilli. Using different colours of tomatoes also looks pretty – yellow tomatoes will keep their golden hue, while red tomatoes will produce anything from a deep orange to a ruby colour. I’ve ended up with one small jar that I can eat over the next couple of weeks, plus a large jar that I can keep in a cupboard for the December festivities. Now…let’s see what cheese I’ve got in the fridge to test out this batch?

To make spicy tomato jam (makes 2-3 small pots):

• 600g cherry tomatoes
• 100ml water
• 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 4 whole cloves
• pinch freshly-ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 75g soft brown sugar
• 100g white sugar
• 2 teaspoons pectin powder
• 60ml white wine vinegar
• juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rinse the tomatoes and cut into a mixture of halves and quarters, removing the stalk part from each. Place in a saucepan with the water and cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer gentle for around 20 minutes.

2. In the meantime, dry toast the nigella and cumin seeds – put them in a saucepan and warm over a medium heat until they smell fragrant. Once done, pour them onto a cold plate.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) to the tomatoes. Mix and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, the boil until the setting point is reached(*) before decanting the jam into prepared sterilised jam jars(**).

(*) How to check for a set? Chill a saucer in the fridge. Put a little jam on the cool plate, and return to the fridge for a minute. Push with your finger – if the jam visibly “wrinkles” when you push it, the jam is done. If it stays liquid, then cook longer and check again after a few minutes.

(**) How to sterilise jam jars? Wash in hot, soapy water, and then rinse very well – do not dry them. Now place up-side down on the shelf of a cold oven, and heat to 100°C / 210°F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven using gloves, allow to cool slightly (they should still be warm) and fill with the hot jam. You can leave the jars in the oven with the heat turned off until you need them, as this keeps the glass warm, and warm glass is much less likely to crack when you add warm jam (science, eh?). Remember to sterilise the lids by washing in hot, soapy water, then rinsing well and then boiling them in a pot of hot water for a few minutes.

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Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Savoury

Papas Arrugadas

I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus since Christmas, as things have been pretty hectic. Sure, it was a shock to they system to go back to work, but life also has a habit of throwing a few random shocks and surprises too, and the last thing I felt like was getting adventurous in the kitchen.

Anyway, time to change all that! While this is the time of the year that I normally like to feature some Scottish recipes in honour of the celebration of the national poet Robbie Burns, I’m going to break with tradition and have a bash at something I ate rather a lot of on holiday last year on Gran Canaria. This is called papas arrugadas which roughly translates as “small wrinkly potatoes”, of which more later.

Below is a little selection of my pictures giving you a bit of a flavour of what the island is like – mountainous, sunny and warm, even in the early days of winter. The capital, Las Palmas, has a fantastic stretch of beach with strange, black sand and fantastic sunsets, while the days brought trips to inland villages with ancient churches, botanical gardens and, by pure coincidence, a rum distillery in Arucas (selling superb rum and rum/honey liqueur). Yes, this is an island that seems to have pretty much everything. Inland, the terrain gets very hilly very quickly, and you pretty quickly realise that the description of Gran Canaria as a mid-continent is no exaggeration. While the Canary Islands are geographically party of Africa, culturally they are very Spanish, but they also reflect their position as a trade centre with various influences passing through over the years. Oh, and did I mention all that glorious sun in the middle of winter? It made the chilly streets of Britain seem so far away.

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So back to the food…what are these papas arrugadas things? Well, they are about one of the simplest things you could every want to make as a snack with drinks. Take some small potatoes and boil them in very salty water – as a rule of thumb, it should be so salty that the potatoes float! That said, I chickened out and added just one tablespoon of salt to the cooking water for my bowl of spuds – I like savoury, but I’m not a salt fiend. Once cooked, you drain them, pop them back in the pan on a very low heat, and as the remaining water evaporates, you are left with a salty crust on the surface of the potatoes, giving them a frosty and wrinkled appearance. They are then served with a sauce, traditionally mojo rojo, made with peppers and olive oil. That’s it. Really, it’s that simple!

In the interests of full disclosure, it’s probably worth pointing out that you really need to enjoy salt if you’re going to make this – it packs quite a punch, so I think it’s best served with other dishes that are much fresher, like tomatoes, salads or mild cheese. Incidentally, there is also a fantastic local cheese on Gran Canaria calles queso de flor which is made with goat’s milk and milk from the cardoon flower, a thistle-like plant related to the artichoke. This cheese has an unusual smokey flavour which makes a nice partner to the papas. Yes, we’re all about healthy eating at the moment!

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Traditionally this dish was apparently made with sea water, so it was quite easy to get a very salty finish on these spuds. This also makes sense when you understand the geography of the Canary Islands. These are not places where fresh water is in over-abundance. Instead, they rely on rain or passing clouds (in the case of the latter, water collects on trees inland and drips slowly down into the ground). Gran Canaria is not exactly a desert, but it did strike me as the sort of place that you’d prefer not to waste water if you had the choice. I did see my fair share of passing showers during my visit, but they never lasted for more than a few minutes, and being out in the middle of the ocean, the weather changed incredibly quickly.

Now, I have to fess up that I didn’t actually make the sauce to go with these papas, preferring instead to stock up with some in a local deli during my holiday. There were actually loads of foody treats that I was able to pick up, and in addition to the mojo and the cheese (and the quince paste, and the fig paste, and the sugared pine nuts, and the pastels de gloria, and the palm sugar treacle…)  there is a tasty spread called bienmesabe made from egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, lemon zest and cinnamon. This is originally an Arabic dessert, but if offered all over Gran Canaria as a dessert. Delicious on ice cream or spread thickly on bread at breakfast. Yup, yet more tips for healthy living today!

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If you’re keen to make your own mojo rojo then aim for a spicy, but fairly thick and smooth sauce. I would suggest a few cloves of garlic, a couple of hot chilis, a spoon of paprika, a couple of spoons of vinegar, plus olive oil and salt to taste. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might also want to throw in some other spices like fennel or cumin. Make sure everything is blended to a smooth paste so that it coats to the potatoes when you dip them in. As long as you use plenty of oil, you could make this sort of sauce and store it in the fridge for quite some time, so perfect as a quick snack to impress guests when you’re knocking back some Spanish wine on a warm evening. Now all I need is…a warm evening to enjoy my back garden! The first snowdrops are starting to peek out of the soil, so hopefully we’ll be enjoying warmer days soon.

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And there you have it – a quick little recipe that can be pulled together in less than 20 minutes to impress hungry dinner guests!

To make papas arrugadas (makes one bowl):

• 225g / 8oz very small potatoes
• boiling water
• salt

1. Put the potatoes into a saucepan. Cover with boiling water and add either (1) add enough salt until then potatoes float, or (2) add one tablespoon of salt.

2. Boil the potatoes until soft – around 15 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily.

3. Drain the potatoes, then return to the pan. Place on a low heat, shaking frequently, until all the water has evaporated and the potatoes have a salty crust.

4. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot with dipping sauce.

Worth making? Of course! Who doesn’t love potatoes with sauce?

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Black Bean Stew

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Now that all the festive fun is over, it is time to make up for all that indulgence. This year, I think I was actually rather restrained, but upping the intake of healthy stuff in the middle of winter is never a bad thing. So this year, my resolution is to cook with less salt, less butter and more pulses and legumes. This is for January initially, but we’ll see how things go. You’d think I would have learned to be careful about basing lots of posts around a theme after all the Christmas baking, but I’m just a glutton for punishment!

Now, let’s be honest – salt and butter are fantastic. They are delicious, work wonders in food, and sometimes there is no substitute. however, it is easy to get lazy and just add more of each in a dish under the guise of “adding flavour”, and before you know it, you’re using too much. So this is less about eliminating the, and more about cutting them down for a while and trying other things to boost the taste of a dish – slow cooking, adding spices, a twist of lemon juice, chargrilling…and if nothing else, it will get me trying a few new things in the kitchen. Remember – it’s about cutting down, but cutting out, so when I do slip a bit of butter on a slice of bread, I’ll appreciate it all the more.

The “beans and legumes” element is about using ingredients that it can be all too easy to overlook in the kitchen, particular those that need to be soaked overnight. I am a huge fan of pasta, and when you get home a little late in the day, pasta will always win out over beans that need soaking overnight. So…my hope is that by using them more, I will change that and become better acquainted with…eh…the magical world of beans!

So here is my first dish, which I think is simplicity itself – an easy stew of black turtle beans and tomatoes. You throw everything in one pot and in less than an hour, it’s done. There is also no added salt in the stew itself. Instead, I’ve made liberal use of aromatic spices and added a dash of paprika for some warmth. The tomatoes all add some tanginess too. Basta!

To make black bean stew (serves 4):

• 200g black turtle beans
• 2 tins chopped tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon nigella (black onion) seeds, toasted and crushed
• grated cheddar, to serve

Soak the beans overnight.

The next day, drain, rinse well, then put back in the pan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

Next, add all the spices and chopped tomatoes. Stir well and keep simmering – uncovered – for another 30 minutes until the stew is thick and the beans are soft. If the stew gets too dry too quickly, add more water – the beans need a total cooking time of 60 minutes.

Serve with a spoon of low-fat natural yoghurt and a small sprinkling of grated mature cheddar.

Worth making? I love this as a main dish – it’s very easy to prepare and has lots of flavour. It defiantly comes under the “easy winter suppers” category and is a good recipe for the repertoire.

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Tumbet

There has been a distinct Spanish flavour to a lot of my posts recently…and today, we’re keeping that going.

I’ve been making a dish called tumbet rather a lot recently. It’s traditionally from Mallorca, and it’s really just about the simplest thing you can make. Chances are, you’ve got just about everything in the kitchen right now. Look at this lot – nothing too fancy here, eh?

But what is this dish? Well, it’s clearly a lot of potato, peppers and aubergine. It’s all sliced up, fried in a little olive oil, then topped off with a thick tomato sauce that’s rammed with lots of garlic. There seem to be quite a lot of variations out there (which is only to b expected with such a traditional dish), but I’ve made a tweak and added a few slices of Spanish Manchego cheese before pouring over the tomato sauce to add a bit more substance so that this makes a tasty and filling main dish.

Now, a lot of blogs feature recipes that are “simple” or “easy” or “a breeze”. I’m not going to lie – this is one that’s easy, but its not quick. I think this tastes best when you can leave the vegetables to fry gently on a very low heat, rather than cremating them over a hot flame. If you’re able to multi-task and do something else at the same time (which coudl involve, perhaps, glasses of wine in the sunshine) then it is indeed simply. It’s just that some thing cannot be rushed.

This a really nice dish that works either as a cold tapas-style nibble with drinks (serve it up with bowls of olives, almonds and patatas bravas with garlic mayo with a few glasses of chilled white wine), or have it as a main dish with a large green salad. Either way – delicious, and you get the feeling of just a little summer sunshine as you eat it.

To make tumbet (as a side dish for four, main for two):

For the sauce:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• pepper, to taste

• salt, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)

Heat the oil over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry very gently for about a minute (it shouldn’t brown). Add the salt, pepper, oregano and chopped tomatoes. Cover the sauce, and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce is too dry, just add a little more water.

For the layers:

• 300g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 aubergine, sliced
• 2 peppers (I used one red, one yellow), cut into sticks
• 75g Manchego cheese, sliced
• olive oil, for frying

Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil until they are starting to turn golden brown. Put in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Brush the aubergine slides with a little olive oil, and fry gently until soft and browned on both sides. Place on top of the potatoes.

Finally, fry the peppers until soft. Put on top of the aubergine, then arrange the slices of cheese on top.

Pour over the sauce and spread evenly on top of the vegetables.

Worth making? This is a tasty dish with lots of flavours and textures, and in my view, makes a nice change from lasagna, moussaka or the dreaded mushroom risotto(*) if you have to serve something to a veggie guest.

(*) Acutally, I love mushrooms risotto – it’s just that it tends to be the only thing on the menu is so many place in London these days!

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Potato Gratin

Happy New Year!

Another year is over, and we are all thinking about what 2011 will bring. There are those things we know will happen – work, the changing seasons, the promise of holidays – as well as all those unexpected events that will keep life interesting. This blog belongs in the latter category – I started it as a little hobby to keep myself out of trouble and as a way of recording my recipes and challenging myself to make new things, and I am thrilled that so many people are stopping by to check out what I have been doing. Thanks to each and every one of you!

At this time of year, we have usually all consumed our own body weight in cookies, mince pies and chocolates, so it is only natural for the mind to turn to more savoury dishes. While I fully expect that by 8 January my mind will be turning even further to the healthy side of life (light salads, healthy soups), I plan to ease in to this with a satisfying savoury favourite with…eh…rather a lot of cream. It’s my take on potato gratin, or gratin dauphinois if we’re feeling fancy. So not so very healthy, but one step at a time, after all…

I made this recently at Christmas drinks. All that mulled wine and endless plates of biscuit were well and good, but you reach the point where you want something savory, if for no other reason than to stop your guests from lapsing into a hyperglycaemic coma. It was such a hit that the dish was stripped before I could even get to taste it, and people were hovering around the kitchen asking if there was more…

There are a few tricks to guarantee a good result. Firstly, the potatoes: you can use any variety, but if you’ve got the choice, waxy ones are best. Next, do you use raw or parboiled? I have tried this using both, and unless you are an obsessive-compulsive sort, uncooked potatoes are just fine.

What does make a bit of a difference is washing the potatoes. Once you’ve sliced them as thinly as possible, tip everything into a large bowl, cover with cold water, then use your hands to slosh the potatoes around. Tip into a colander or sieve, then repeat. You’ll be truly amazed by just how much starch you remove this way. This means that once you pour over the cream, the potatoes will cook in the liquid, rather than forming a gloopy sauce. We want silky and creamy, not gloopy!

Next, how to season? I like a hit of garlic, but it can easily be too much. The trick here is to whack a clove with the back of a knife, slice in half, and rub the halves around the inside of the baking dish. This gets a subtle whisper of garlic flavour in the final dish. I also season each layer of potato with some salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper and fresh nutmeg.

And of course the cream. Instinct might say “pour it on”, but there is a trick here too. Rather than just cream, I use a 50/50 mixture of double cream and water. This provides enough liquid for the potatoes to cook in so they become soft, but it reduces down in the oven the just coat the potatoes, and avoids a gratin that can sometimes be too greasy.

And…cheese? A lot of people use it, but I give it a miss. Just dot the top with butter for a glorious golden finish.

So go forth, enjoy this warm, comforting culinary classic, and next week this little cook is moving over to the New Year health drive.

To make potato gratin:

• 50g butter
• potatoes (as many as fit into your dish), peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• ground salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• freshly grated nutmeg
• 150-200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Cut the garlic clove in half, and rub all over the inside of the serving dish (mine was 20 x 30cm). Spread the base of the dish with half the butter.

Place the sliced potatoes into a large bowl. Cover with cold water, and stir well. The water should turn white from the potato starch. Drain the potatoes, and rinse a second time. Drain again and shake off any excess water.

Layer 1/4 of the potatoes in the dish. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add another layer of potatoes, then more seasoning, then more potatoes, then more seasoning, and then a final layer of potatoes.

In a jug, combine the cream and the same volume of water and stir well. Pour over the potatoes (the cream mixture should come 2/3 of the way up the potatoes). Cut the rest of the butter into small pieces and scatter over the potatoes.

Bake the gratin for one hour until the top is golden, and a knife can be easily inserted. Serve warm.

Worth making? The is a classic side dish, but makes an equally good main dish with a fresh green salad on a chilly winter evening. Definitely one to try! Can also be made ahead of time and re-heated.

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Easy Poffertjes

Hup Holland Hup! Love it or loathe it, it is the final of the World Cup 2010 tonight in Joburg. Whether you are following Paul the psychic octopus (backing Spain) or Mystic Mani, the parrot who can see the future (backing the Netherlands) (seriously – see here), there is no getting away from it. Here at LondonEats, we are pinning our colours to the mast, and backing the Netherlands, hence today’s rather attractive header featuring all things Dutch. Clogs, bikes, tulips, windmills, cheese and Queen Beatrix. If you missed it, click here.

In honour of this occasion, I have revisited my recipe for poffertjes, but I have tweaked it to make it yeast-free. This is also a lot quicker, as you just add baking powder and go for it.

The result? While these poffertjes obviously don’t have the yeasty taste of the traditional version, I still think they are pretty good. They still puff up, and they still develop the characteristic holes on top while they are cooking. They also taste pretty good. I would just make sure to use buckwheat flour in this recipe, so that you are not moving too far from the original and you keep the “real Dutch taste”. Smothered in melted salty butter and icing sugar, these things are utterly delicious. Next on my list to try will be to develop a gluten-free version. Watch this space.

One more time – Hup Holland Hup!

To make poffertjes:

• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 50g melted butter, cooled
• pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix the plain and buckwheat flours. Add the milk and the water to make a thick batter. You want something that looks like pancake batter – basically, the mixture should flow from the back of a wooden spoon, but should not flow too quickly. You may find that you don’t need all the water, so don’t add it all at once.

Now add the salt, baking powder, melted butter and the egg, and mix well.

To cook the poffertjes, lightly grease the pan with a little butter (if the pan is no-stick, you won’t need to do this). Heat the pan on a medium heat. Fill a sauce bottle (one with a small nozzle), and then squirt the mix into the pan (saves fiddling with spoons or a piping bag). The mixture will swell slightly as the baking powder kicks into action, so don’t over-fill. When the top of the poffertje is almost dry, flip over and cook briefly on the other side.

Once all the poffertjes are cooked, serve with melted butter and icing sugar.

Worth making? Yes yes yes! As with their yeasty cousins, they are fun to serve and are utterly delicious. Swapping the yeast for baking powder makes it even quicker to whip up a batch of these tasty little treats.

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Dillpotatis (Swedish Dill Potatoes)

Amidst all the world cup hysteria, a lot of people have overlooked Saturday’s royal wedding in Sweden. Crown Princess Victoria married her gym instructor – a modern fairytale. In honour of that, a Swedish-inspired dish today…

In the world of potato salads, there are those who like them to be creamy, those that like them sharp and acidic, and those that like them to be fresh and herby. I fall into the last category, as I like potato salad to be quite light, and something that lends itself to a summer picnic.

Why potatoes, why now? Because Jersey Royals are currently in British shops. These are early potatoes, which come only from the island of Jersey. They crop early, and have a rich, earthy taste – one of the flavours that signals summer is (almost) here. For those not in the UK, I am sorry to say that we benefit from virtually the entire crop, so you will have to keen an eye out for them next time you are visiting. For cooking, you can just scrape off the skin (I don’t bother), boil briefly, and they are delicious with a little butter and some chopped parsley. While they are a little more expensive than normal new potatoes, in my opinion, they are very much worth it.

However, this year I thought I would try something a little different with the little haul I picked up at the market, so I have made my take on the classic Swedish dillpotatis (literally “dill potatoes”). The Royal nature of these spuds also fits in with the Swedish wedding, so it’s clearly some sort of sign. For a potato salad, it is quite light, with just a little oil to allow the flavours of a few spices to come out and keep the dish moist. There is quite a lot of dill in here compared to others I have seen, but I think the freshness and aniseed flavours help keep the dish very “summery”. This is something that I came up with through trial and error based on what I ate in Sweden, and I think I have done quite well in producing something that showcases all of the ingredients. The tumeric works well with the spring onions, and its earthiness rounds out the flavour of the potatoes. It also makes the dish a vibrant neon yellow colour, which looks great and is all-natural.

For the potatoes:

• 500g potatoes (Jersey Royals or baby potatoes)
• 4 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 25g dill, chopped (one generous handful of leaves, after you have removed the tough stalks)

If you feel the need, scrape the skins off the potatoes (don’t peel). It should come off quite easily if you use a table knife. Boil the potatoes until soft, then drain and allow to cool.

In a saucepan, heat the spring onions in one tablespoon of oil until soft. Add the salt, pepper and turmeric and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the spring onion mixture, the dill and 2 tablespoons of oil to the potatoes. Toss so that the potatoes are evenly coated. Chill before serving to allow the flavours and colour to develop.

Worth making? This makes a nice alternative to potatoes covered in mayonnaise. I particularly like the colour – the potatoes are golden, and the oil takes on a shocking neon colour which looks great on a white plate. You can also adapt it easily depending on what is in the cupboard – paprika, cumin, black onion seeds…

Final thought – congrats to the happy couple. They look great together and are clearly in love. A happy future together!

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Baked Sweet Potato with Feta and Spring Onion

I have always liked the idea of sweet potatoes (or yams). They taste great and have a brilliant orange colour when cooked, but so often they don’t taste quite right when you switch them for normal potatoes in dishes. This is probably because of their sweetness, which can seem odd in otherwise savoury foods.

A while back, I finally hit upon a way of cooking them which works brilliantly, is really simple and tastes delicious. I know this might not seem very exciting, but I think it is. Just peel them, rub in oil, cover in foil and then bake in a hot oven. That’s it! This makes the outside caramelise, while the inside stays soft and moist. It also means that you don’t have the skin afterwards. I am happy to eat potato skins normally, but I just don’t like them on sweet potatoes. No logic to that! The whole cooking-in-foil business is, in my view, necessary, as they can otherwise dry out and the skin can go a little tough.

The magic here comes with the topping – cook up a few spring onions in a pot, jazz it up with a little spice of your choice, then allow to cool and combine with some feta. Then top off with a a few uncooked spring onions and a little extra feta, plus whatever else you like (I used sumac powder and black onion seeds, as I happened to have these in the store cupboard, but feel free to go wild with what you have). The taste is sensational – the very salty cheese and the sweet/savoury flavour of the onions works well with the warm, sweet flesh of the potatoes and tastes sublime. The spices then dance around in the background, supporting the main show. Really tasty, for summer or winter, and very, very easy to make. Sure, they sit in the oven for a while, but you don’t need to spend more than five minutes in the kitchen.

To serve 2:

• 2 medium sweet potatoes
• 4 spring onions
• 150g feta cheese, crumbled
• olive oil
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Prepare the potatoes – peel them and rub each lightly in olive oil. This will prevent discolouration, and improves the surface during cooking. Wrap each in foil, place in the oven, and cook for around 1 hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can easily insert a skewer. If you like extra crispness, once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the foil, place on a baking tray and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the topping. Finely slice the spring onions diagonally. Add three-quarters of the chopped spring onions to a saucepan with a spoonful of olive oil, and cook until soft but not brown. Add salt, pepper and cumin (if using). Allow to cool, then add three-quarters of the feta. Mix well. However, if feeling lazy, don’t bother cooking the spring onions – just put all of them them in a bowl with oil, salt, pepper, cumin and all the feta. Mix, then use. Easy!

Split the cooked potatoes in two. Divide the topping across each half of the potato, then add some of the reserved feta and spring onions. Finish off with a sprinkling of sumac and black onion seeds (if using), and a final drizzle of olive oil.

Worth making? This is both easy and makes a sophisticated taken on the baked potato. I’ve successfully varied it with different spices, or by adding a little strong cheddar. Halloumi could also work. Just be sure to use a cheese that packs a punch, so that it simultaneously stands up to and complements the sweetness of the potatoes. Yum!

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