Pork & Sweet Potato Curry

This is the perfect curry for cooler weather, just as late summer is transitioning to fall. We have been lucky in London: the last couple of weeks have been sunny and fairly warm, but fall has definitely set in now.

This is a recipe adapted from my Thai bible. The original it was pumpkin and pork, but …… I am not a great fan of pumpkin. So I decided to try it with sweet potatoes instead. I’m glad I did because this was a very satisfying meal.

Here’s how to make it:
Pork and Sweet Potato Curry, adapted from Simply Thai Cooking

  1. Dice 2 medium sweet potatoes and place them in a roasting tin. Lightly coat with a bit of oil and salt and pepper and roast at 180 degrees C for 25-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, slice your pork; as Wandee recommends, we used pork tenderloin.
  3. Slice up a red pepper into bite-sized pieces; reserve for later.
  4. Heat 250ml coconut milk in a wok on high, and when it boils add 2 tsbp red curry paste (this was rather hot; adjust to preferences). When it has dissolved and mixed in nicely, add in the juice of half a lime and then the pork slices.
  5. Stir fry for a 3-4 minutes and then add in 2 tbsp fish sauce and 1 tsp sugar.
  6. Add the roasted sweet potatoes as well as 1 tbsp oyster sauce as well as an additional 250ml coconut milk.* Simmer a further minute, and then dress with a handful of fresh basil and your red pepper. Taste: you may find you need a dash more lime juice.
  7. Enjoy!

*NB I forgot to include this in the initial post; revised 8/10/15.

Wandee recommends serving with steamed rice, but we ate this on its own and found it just fine. This is the perfect dish for rainy fall evenings as it has a good kick and brightens things up!

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Potato Skins, Two Ways

In North American pubs/bars, potato skins are, unashamedly, one of my favourite things to order. Crunchy, salty, loads of sour cream and cheese — yum. My perfect comfort food. I have never tried to make them at home before now because somehow thought they’d always be inferior. Some things are better left to deep-fat fryers eating out. However, I was in the mood for them and decided to give these two versions a go (not on the same night of course).

Traditional skins (Original recipe here)
Of the two, these were the easier to make. The most awkward part is cutting out the flesh after the potatoes are done — it has to be done a bit delicately otherwise the skin will break. With these flavours, and lots of sour cream!, you can’t really go wrong. No, it’s not the same as sitting in a bar and nursing a beer while you wait, but these definitely hit the spot.

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Thai-inspired peanut sweet potato skins (Original recipe here)
Sweet potatoes are more finicky than regular ones, as all of the sugar makes them sticky and harder to handle. It’s also harder to get them crispy (in our oven anyway — it’s a fine line between well-done and burnt). Taste-wise, these were excellent. The satay-type sauce worked well and coriander and spring onions balanced out the sweetness of the potatoes. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll make these again because it was simply too tedious with the sweet potatoes. They do make a nice change though and would be great as an appetizer if you have the patience!

sw pot skins thai

Valentine’s Day 2015

For the past few years H. and I have had the tradition of staying home, opening a bottle (or 2) of wine and cooking something together — something more elaborate than we’d normally make. This year a was a little different because we spent the afternoon with 150+ people (most of them kids!) at a Valentine’s Day concert that H. and his piano partner put on — a raving success, I  might add! After a bottle of wine shared with H.’s piano partner and his wife, we returned home and spent the next couple of hours in the kitchen, happy to be alone in our quiet flat after a very loud and overwhelming afternoon.

In planning the meal, I’d had my eye on this gnocchi recipe for a while. Readers with a good memory might remember my first go — these ones, despite a bit of a panicky moment when I though I’d ruined them — turned out better, I’m pleased to say. I also knew that I wanted to make this cheesecake which had been on my to-make list for a few months.

Because I knew we’d get home quite late, I did some prep on Saturday morning. I made the cheesecake and started on the gnocchi by boiling (parsnips) and roasting (parsnips & sweet potatoes) the veg so that they were cooled and malleable by the time we got home. When we did, I concentrated first on assembling the gnocchi, then put the pork in the oven, cooked the gnocchi, and assembled the salad. Originally, I wanted to serve the gnocchi as a starter and then the pork and salad together, but by that point, I really didn’t (a) see the point of doing that or (b) care!

So how did it turn out?
The salad was definitely a hit — a predictable combination, but a reliable one. I omitted the raisins – yuck! (I can barely tolerate pear in my salad, let alone other fruit). I was quite happy with the gnocchi but resolved (again) not to make it at home anymore because it’s simply too much work. And I’m not 100% sure that I like it enough to make it worth it. The combination of blue cheese and pine nuts definitely works though, and if I saw this dish on a menu I’d order it. The pork was a tried and tested recipe — in hindsight a good idea as we had a lot else going on.

The cheesecake was a disappointment. It’s hard to describe. It didn’t taste bad or unpleasant, but it was not at ALL what I expected. H. described it as tasting like pudding, which was bang on. It had none of the mild tang of a typical cheesecake – I guess because of the mascarpone (although I have made cheesecakes with only mascarpone before and don’t remember them being so mild). The filling to me tasted like vanilla pudding and the consistency was also thinner/not as solid as I’d expected. On the latter point, in a series of tweets with Ruby, I guessed that I under-baked it a bit. The taste, however, I don’t know.

Along with the meal we had a well-deserved bottle of Prosecco and, on recommendation, some of this bottle of Dolcetto di Dogliani. I was happy with this wine — it is not something I would usually choose, but it went very well with the meal. It also inspired me to order a bottle of another Dolcetto when I was out for dinner on Saturday. (Read more about this grape variety here).

All in all, despite the disappointing cheesecake, it was a wonderful evening, the perfect antidote to the absolute chaos of the afternoon. And a great reminder that cooking can really be FUN!

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Kale, Sweet Potato, & Goat Cheese Salad

This is the ideal salad for January: kale and sweet potatoes are both in season, and it’s bulky enough to feel like a real meal that fills you up, while still being relatively light. This is my own recipe, and in this version I added in leftover roast chicken as it had to be used up.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Cut up and roast sweet potatoes. Note: to get sweet potatoes crispy in the oven, I used the cornstarch (aka “cornflour” in the UK) method outlined here.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the other parts of the salad: rinse and chop the kale, and add the cheese. For this salad, I used cavolo nero (black kale), but other types would work too.
  3. Make the dressing: I made a basic vinaigrette using fig balsamic vinegar (yum!), but you could adapt this to what you’d prefer. See some ideas from Martha here. Or, since kale is a sturdy leaf, it can stand up to a much heavier, creamier dressing (one with tahini is coming to mind).
  4. Let the sweet potatoes cool for a few minutes, if you can, and then add them to the salad along with the dressing. If you’re patient enough/have the time, let it sit for a few minutes so that everything soaks in. Otherwise, eat and enjoy.

kale salad

Back on the job

I can’t believe there has been a nearly 3 week gap between my last post and this one. I don’t think that’s ever happened on this blog other than planned breaks! The 3-year anniversary of MwL even came and went on the 10th without my acknowledgement – tsk, tsk. Needless to say it’s been very busy on this end with lots of PhD-stuff going on and a 5-day trip to Poland squeezed in there. Another part of why I haven’t posted is because I’ve felt that why I’ve been trying a few new things in the kitchen, not a lot of them are groundbreaking or interesting enough to warrant a post. With that in mind, I’ve decided to play catch-up by combining a few different dishes into one post.

Anti-vampire (aka garlic) soup (from Lottie & Doof, recipe here)
As a lover of garlic I have always wanted to try making garlic soup. This one seemed the perfect antidote to the crappy weather we’ve had all winter. It was also great because I wanted to use some of the sage that my friend A. brought back from Turkey for me as a gift! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, there are two types of sage. One is much stronger, and guess which one I was using? I left it in the entire time the soup was simmering (~20 minutes) and as soon as I’d taken the first sip I knew: it was horribly and disgustingly bitter! Once we’d removed all the sage it was palatable but still unfortunately not probably as good as it could have been. What made it better was fresh bread & the poached egg, which were both lovely.

Get outta my soup, sage.
Get outta my soup, sage.

Quiche
After stating for years that I wasn’t a fan of quiche (due to a very unfortunate bad association with rotten quiche on a plane as a child), I discovered over Christmas that I actually love it! My aunt J2 made a delicious lobster quiche for Christmas morning brunch and since then I’ve made it three times (although admittedly with the less luxurious and more humble mushroom). This recipe, with the addition of green onion, is my favourite so far.

Quiche & Sunday morning sun
Quiche & Sunday morning sun

Breakfast hash
I am a sweet potato fiend and so this brunch dish immediately caught my eye. It did not disappoint! Other than slightly overcooking the eggs (baked eggs are such a precise science!), this was perfect. Unlike the recipe I did make it the day of and was chopping potatoes at 9am, but it was worth it.

Sausage, egg, & bacon hash
YUM

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I have always wanted to try my hand at making gnocchi. When I saw this posted at one of my new favourite blogs, Half Baked Harvest, I thought it looked like a delicious recipe and a good opportunity to try it out.

Making gnocchi is quite a labourious task and should be set aside for an evening when you know you have some extra time. In most cases the first step will be boiling or roasting the potatoes (unless you happen to have extra mashed potatoes lying around). I roasted mine for about 35 minutes. The next step is preparing the mixture of sweet potatoes, Parmesan, eggs, burrata or ricotta (my local shop had neither, so I used ‘fresh cheese’ which isn’t as good as German Frischkäse unfortunately), salt, then adding the flour and mixing and shaping the gnocchi. This was definitely the most time-consuming part. Mine definitely did not look very uniform and I also made them too big.

I served them with the caramelized mushrooms and goat cheese as in the recipe I linked to, as well as a side salad. H. loved this meal and in particular the gnocchi but I thought they were just okay — a little bland (you are your own worst critic!). I am glad I tried this, but I don’t think I will be making gnocchi again anytime soon: it is simply too time-consuming!

A little flour-y?
Dough before it is cut up into small gnocchi: a little flour-y?
Finished product: sweet potato gnocchi with mushrooms and goat cheese.
Finished product: sweet potato gnocchi with mushrooms and goat cheese.

Sweet Potato, Ginger, & Chocolate Muffins

First of all, happy October! Today marks 1 year of PhD completion (2 to go), and a host of new changes in my academic life as well.

When I saw these muffins on London Bakes, I was very intrigued. This is a recipe that was adapted by Kathryn from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, which if any of you are goop subscribers you’ll know is (probably – I haven’t seen it!) full of very healthy yet tasty stuff. I love sweet potatoes and knew they could be used in baking but had never tried it before.

I went on a half-hearted hunt for kamut flour before researching and substituting it straight out for plain. Ginger isn’t my favourite (I am always trying to eat more) but it is wonderful in these muffins. I used fresh which I think works best in this as you get a real zing when you bite into a bit with ginger in it.

These are healthier muffins without compromising on taste. Their sweetness comes from the sweet potato and honey; there is no added sugar. I made these while H. was out and he guessed pretty much every fruit under the sun before I told him what they were made of! You can definitely taste their added sweetness. My only complaint is that they turned out quite dense – I guess not surprising when you use flour and sweet potato. It also could be to do with the fact that I used plain flour.

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Chickpeas & Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato

This dish, (another) from Ottolenghi the cookbook, looked like an ideal one for me as it combines two of my favourite foods, sweet potatoes and chickpeas.

It is a two-step process. The first step is boiling the sweet potatoes in honey, water, butter, and a pinch of salt. While that is happening, the ‘base’ is made, which is composed of canned tomatoes, chickpeas, cumin, coriander, tomato puree, and sugar, with the spinach added in at the end along with the potatoes on top.

The dish is served with a mint, garlic, and lemon yogurt. I did not have any dried mint on hand, so skipped that but otherwise made the yogurt as directed.

Although this was a tasty meal, I will probably not make it again for the following reasons. As regular readers will know, I love sweet potatoes. The way they were prepared in this dish though was a bit of a miss for me. I halved the amount of honey that Ottolenghi suggests, thinking to myself that they don’t need to be any sweeter than they already are. For my tastebuds, I was right, I just don’t think the honey is necessary – the potatoes are sweet enough on their own. Secondly, (my fault) I didn’t boil them long enough. They needed to be in for 5-10 more minutes to be super soft. I also prefer the texture of roasted sweet potatoes so if making this again on its own, I would do that. Also, I am not a huge fan of cooked spinach; I much prefer it raw. Ultimately though, I prefer the combination in this sweet potato & chickpea curry, which also uses spinach but has a creamy peanut butter/coconut milk base instead.

swpt and chickpea

Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon, Green Onions, & Feta

Happy weekend! (Even though for me weekends do not mean breaks or relaxation anymore – I’m working on a deadline for tomorrow).

The moment I came across this (via a Buzzfeed compilation of winter salads), I knew I had to make it. Sweet potatoes + bacon = a winning combination, and a perfect winter warming salad.

There’s not too much to say about it because it’s so simple and easy to throw together. In the absence of a BBQ, I baked the sweet potatoes. Yes, I missed the charred texture and taste but it was still delicious. I also added a little feta cheese but otherwise stuck pretty much to the same recipe. The ‘dressing’ is heavy on the mustard but can be adjusted to personal preference, or indeed modified to any dressing you wish.

It’s perfect as a meal on its own or as a dish in a brunch/buffet.

Please note: the recipe does NOT come from the book in the photo!! (Photographer's error)
Please note: the recipe does NOT come from the book in the photo!! (Photographer’s error)

Ottolenghi’s Sweet Potato Gratin

Hi from Germany, where we’ve been, after a great deal of travel mayhem, since Monday morning.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

The only word for this dish is heavenly. That is, if you like sweet potatoes. This recipe is another from Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, Ottolenghi {recipe also available online here}.

I won’t write much about this because it will either grab you instantly (if you are sweet potato-obsessed, like me), or you’ll skim over it if it doesn’t suit you.

It’s easy to make: slice the sweets potatoes, douse them in a combination of olive oil, garlic, seasoning and herbs, and roast them — first covered (45 minutes) and then uncovered (20 minutes) with the addition of approximately 1 cup/240mL cream (adjust to taste). *Note: depending how many potatoes you use, they might need less time in the oven. You want them to be very soft & tender at the end, so keep an eye on them.

H. found it a bit too rich but I absolutely adored this! It IS rich, and thus not something you can eat every day but served with a simple green salad I found it to be the perfect meal.


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