Posts Tagged ‘sweet potato’

The pressure’s on in Hong Kong, when it comes to food, as so much of it is so expensive, particularly meat and fish which we buy imported from Australia or the US. If you mess up a roast chicken, hard I know, that’s twenty quid down the drain. Apparently much of the local stuff is full of pollutants, or hormones, or who knows what. It’s a shame because hunkered down beneath the skyscrapers, the banks and the big-brand mega stores are thriving markets. The classic one to go to for food is in Wanchai, east of the financial district, near the immigration department. I went there yesterday morning early to catch the good stuff and was the only Westerner in sight. Sadly they see the blonde giraffe coming a mile off and prices double. At the flower stall I asked the price of some lillies and was told $25 per stem (about £2), the Chinese customer next to me asked in an audibly shocked voice ‘$25???’ and I’m pretty sure the stall holder said, ‘no, no, not for you’ so we moved on.

I let my helper do the bulk of the shopping just pointing out stuff I like the look of or need. She haggles, squeezes fruit and veg with a trained eye and checks the scales before they weigh them, which it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try. She announces certain things ‘no good’ and we move on to the next stall. There is a sort of flick of the chin which means ‘OK I’ll take it’ which I must learn to perfect. Everything looks clean and abundant; there are stalls with simply heaps of bok choi, pak choy, choy sum – they all appear the same to me but some are better for stir-fries, others for dumplings, some for fish. There are stalls of incense, medicine, loo rolls, nuts, clucking chickens, rose petals… I have so much to learn. Never more so than when staring at a tank of live fish. Again I defer to my helper who looks each fish in the eye and pronounces it ‘maybe good’. If they have any damage to the scales around their mouth, they have been nosing the sides of the tank for a while and are ‘old’. She can’t imagine buying a fish fillet in a plastic tray – how would you know how fresh it was? We bought a fish, again expensively, which I didn’t see die, it just appeared in a plastic bag of ice. We ate it steamed with ginger, spring onions, coriander and soy sauce and it was delicious. Apparently you can taste the pollution from the Pearl River delta in the delicate flesh of the fish but I honestly couldn’t. I will try buying fish online, as I’m sure there’s truth in the rumours of metal pollution, but it’s so much more fun to buy like this.

I didn’t see any alligators on my trip to the market so substituted (Australian, imported) skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, you can also use pork loin or prawns. It’s from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s America’, the inspiration for this recipe coming from Louisiana. The bright colours and sharp salsa appealed to me as the weather has been cloudless and warm after weeks of grey and cold. Judging from the popularity of the the sweet potato gratin featured on this site it should be a hit, it is heartwarming and comforting. It’s also really easy and requires very little preparation. Do marinate the chicken for as long as you can, I definitely felt it made a difference. I didn’t see any green tomatoes, but had a punnet of cherry tomatoes in need of eating so used those. I didn’t deseed them and Jamie was right that it made the salsa a bit wet. Over to you on whether you can be bothered…

Cajun chicken with sweet potato and salsa

Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes (approx 200g each), wrapped in foil

750g alligator tail, chicken breasts or pork loin, cut into 1cm thick slices

For the cajun marinade:

1 level tsp cayenne pepper

1 level tsp paprika

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a small bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked [I didn’t use any]

a small bunch of thyme, leaves picked

1 fresh bay leaf, spine removed, leaf torn into pieces [I used a dried one]

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

For the salsa:

3 spring onions, trimmed and very finely chopped

1/2 a fresh red chilli, or to taste, deseeded and finely chopped

2 green tomatoes, finely chopped

1 red tomato, deseeded and finely chopped

a small bunch of fresh curly parsley, finely chopped

2 tbsp cider vinegar

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Start by making the marinade. Whack [so Jamie to say that] the cayenne, paprika and a pinch each of salt and pepper into a pestle and mortar with the fresh herbs and grind them together. Add your garlic, olive oil and mustard and grind again – the oil will help all the flavours come out. When you’ve got a thick treacly paste, transfer it to a large bowl and toss your pieces of meat in it until they are completely coated. Cover with clingfilm, then pop the bowl into the fridge and leave for at least 20 to 30 minutes or, if you really want those flavours to do their work, for a few hours or even overnight.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and pop your foil-wrapped sweet potatoes in to roast for about 1 hour. When they’re nearly ready, make your salsa. It’s lovely and fresh, with the right amount of heat, crunch, herbiness, acid and salt to bring it all to life. Put all your salsa ingredients into a bowl, with a good pinch of sea salt to bring out the flavour of the tomatoes. Give it all a good mix.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, take them out of the oven but leave them in the foil so they stay warm. Put a large pan or wok on a high heat and get it ‘screaming’ hot. Quickly but carefully add your pieces of marinated meat and let them cook for a few minutes on each side so they get some nice colour.

Unwrap your sweet potatoes and put them on plates. Score them down the middle, then gently squeeze them so they pucker up. Serve your lovely cooked meat on top, and cover with a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa. And that’s it – beautiful meat, soft sweet potatoes and fresh lively salsa!






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I love spicy food with a dollop of something cooling on it, like chilli with guacamole or curry with raita, almost to the point where the cooling element takes precedence. It’s the kind of food I want when I’m on my own of an evening and am going to sit down in front of the TV for dinner.

This curry, not as hot as the name vindaloo suggests, is made so much more delicious with thick, cold yoghurt and mint and coriander leaves. The recipe is for 4 but it’s even better eaten the next day or reheated from frozen so do make more than you need. I found myself searching my freezer hoping for one last bag of this the other day which seemed the sign of a good recipe.

Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list, it’s a cinch to make and most of this lot are just spices you quickly tip into the pot. Another from the wonderful Mr Ottolenghi, this time from his new cook book ‘Plenty’, which will be the first of many recipes I’ll try. Not sure the husband was convinced with the lack of meat in this recipe but even he had to admit it was pretty good – once he was pursuaded to try it.

Two-potato vindaloo

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 Cooking time: 2 hours

8 cardamom pods

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegetable oil

12 shallots (300g in total), chopped [I didn’t bother with shallots, just used the onions I already had in the fridge]

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

25 curry leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger

1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped [I used tinned]

50ml cider vinegar

400ml water

1 tbsp caster sugar

400g peeled waxy potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice

2 small red peppers, cut into 2cm dice

400g peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 2.5 cm dice


mint or coriander leaves to serve

Start by making a spice mix. Dry-roast the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and add the cloves. Work to a fine powder [i found this quite hard work, not sure how ‘fine’ you’d call what I ended up with], removing and discarding the cardamom pods once the seeds are released. Add the turmeric, paprika and cinnamon and set aside.

Heat up the oil in a large heavy-based pot. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and saute on a medium-low heat for 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown. Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger and chilli and cook for a further 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, vinegar, water, sugar and some salt. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and red peppers and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage, add the sweet potatoes. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce. Serve hot, with plain rice and garnished with the herbs and yoghurt.



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I served this with the beef fillet with three sauces but it is delicious with chicken, pork, on it’s own… Another Ottolenghi recipe, it can be prepared a day in advance and left in the fridge until you want to put it in the oven. You can also replace the sage with thyme – or use a mix of both. For me the best thing about it is that you don’t have to peel the potatoes and, unlike other dauphinoise-type dishes where you use ‘normal’ potatoes, these never seem to be under cooked.

My top tip is don’t use those really massive sweet potatoes you often find in the supermarket, you want them to be small enough so that when you pour the cream over them they are nicely covered, not just toes dipping. You’ll see what I mean. 

Sweet potato gratin

Serves 4-6

Prep: 15 mins Cooking: 1 hour 10 mins

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5kg in total)

5 tbsp roughly chopped sage, plus extra to garnish

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

250ml whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6. Wash the sweet potatoes (do not peel them) and cut them into discs 5mm thick. 

In a bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep, medium sized oven-proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them upright, next to each other. They should fit together quite tightly so you get parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish. Throw any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes.

Cover the dish with foil, place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast, uncovered, for a further 25 minutes. The cream should have thickened by now. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft. 

Serve immediately, garnished with sage, or leave to cool down. In any case, bringing the potatoes to the table in the baking dish, after scraping the outside clean, will make a strong impact.


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This recipe comes from the Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Run by Rachel Demuth, a founder member of Neals’ Yard Bakery in London, Rachel also started Demuths, one of the most successful vegetarian restaurants in the UK.

I attended a day course at the cookery school, with the theme being a ‘fast and delicious’ menu. This is definitely not preachy vegetarian cookery – in fact quite a few of us weren’t veggies, some had children or children-in-law who were vegetarian, others were simply interested in broadening their repertoire of non-meat dishes. It was an inspirational day, one that ended deliciously with us eating the fruits of our labours. Other dishes we whipped up in no time included Irish soda bread, pesto stuffed field mushrooms served with roasted tomato chilli pinto beans, roasted banana shallots with sage, celeriac mash, stir fried Cavalo Nero, and pear and plum clafoutis.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have a large bag of corn on the cob to get through, lifted from an already harvested field of corn. We could see that the supermarket had only picked the prize (ie larger) specimens of corn and left the rest to plough back in to the field. Such a waste! It didn’t feel like stealing since they’d already thrown them away, and I think my cousin owned the field anyway… Does that make it OK? They certainly taste good…

I made this soup for my lunch yesterday and it was fresh but filling. I think it needs more than half a lemon’s worth of juice and plenty of seasoning. I’m hoping to have it again today and that it’s flavours will have deepened further. 

Corn and sweet potato chowder

Serves 4-6

Prep: 20 mins Cooking: 20 mins

1 large onion, finely chopped

1tbsp sunflower oil

1 red pepper, deseeded and diced

2 (400g) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2cm cubes

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 bay leaves

800ml water

2tbsps dry sherry

1/4 tsp cayenne

280g sweetcorn kernels

juice of 1/2 a lemon

3tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until softened. Add the red pepper and stir for a minute. Add the sweet potatoes, chilli, garlic and bay leaves and stir for a minute. Add the water, sherry and cayenne and season. Simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is soft but still holds its shape. Stir in the sweetcorn. 

When the sweetcorn has heated through, remove the bay leaves and whiz for a few seconds using a hand blender or liquidiser. The soup should have plenty of texture, but be creamy. Add the lemon juice, parsley and check the seasoning. 

http://www.vegetariancookeryschool.com / +44 (0)1225 427938

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