Sweet potato Gratin

Next up to tackle in the box this week was sweet potatoes The kids love sweet potatoes just because, as in the name, they are so sweet. I often make them Sweet Potato Chips but I wanted to find something new. This gratin turned out to be really delicious. If it is a dish for the whole family, I always like to add something to try and counteract the sweetness and would naturally reach for the chilli but I restrained myself here for the kids’ sake and just added some super savoury rosemary and a hint of smokiness with the paprika. I served it up with some sausages for dinner and let’s just say – there was none left!

Sweet Potato GRatin

Sweet Potato Gratin
1 kilo sweet potatoes (about 3-4) peeled and sliced into ¼ cms slices
500mls double cream
5 sprigs of rosemary, stripped from stems and very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Smoked paprika
50g parmesan cheese

Add the cream, rosemary and garlic to a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently simmer for half an hour or so, whilst you prepare the sweet potatoes. A mandolin in good for slicing the sweet potatoes but mind your fingers. Layer the slices into a gratin dish. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C. Remove the cream from the heat and mash in the now soft garlic cloves. Season well with plenty of salt, freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika, to taste. Pour over the sweet potatoes and cove with tin foil. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until a knife easily inserts into the middle. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and return to the oven to brown.

Sweet Potatoes

Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks

This week, with yet another school holiday imminent, I have been thinking about kids. It can sometimes be a challenge to push our kids to expand their list of likes and don’t likes and often it seems like more trouble than it is worth, as they turn their noses up at another delicious, home-cooked meal. Research shows that a child often needs to taste a new vegetable up to 10 times before accepting it and even when a child likes a vegetable, they are often doubtful about trying it in an unfamiliar form. I know it might be frustrating but with this in mind, I am giving you some recipes this week that I am currently trying out on my kids and I hope yours might grow to love.

At the same time, I always like to challenge my cooking and I have been experimenting with putting the cauliflower in raw rather than the age old method of boiling it first. Sometimes we just follow old fashioned techniques without questioning ourselves why? At first I roasted the cauliflower separately to pre-cook it, but eventually I discovered that even this was not necessary. As long as you cut the cauliflower into small even sized chunks, it will cook itself in the sauce, and give more texture to the dish rather than the often over-cooked, slightly mushy traditional version. Even better, it saves time and washing up so why not give it a try!

Cauliflower cheese

Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Leeks
An adaptation of cauliflower cheese, adding in some bacon and leeks, which I think turns it into a bit more of a meal in itself, rather than a side dish. You can add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard if you like but the kids may not like it!
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small bite-size florets
180g thin sliced smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped into half-moons
50g butter
50g all-purpose flour
500 ml milk
200g grated cheddar cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to170°C.  Fry your bacon with the butter, in a large saucepan set over medium heat for 5 min or until crispy. Add leeks and a little salt and fry for 5 to 7 min or until very soft and just starting to turn golden. (If you have a lid, cover the pan to begin with. The steam helps the initial sweating process and the salt also helps to add moisture drawn out from the leeks.) Sprinkle with flour; cook for 1 min stirring all the time. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Stir for a few minutes until smooth and thickened. Stir in the cheese until melted. Taste and season accordingly. Stir in the cauliflower florets and tip into a gratin dish. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and the gratin in golden brown on top.

Cauliflower cheese in dish

Caldo Verde

Finally, for this week, my final cabbage recipe. Another hearty soup this time from Portugal, Caldo Verde literally translates as hot green, consisting traditionally of potatoes, a local kale and Portuguese spicy sausage. I have adapted it for cabbage, but you can only use the dark outer leaves so it does not lack its deep, famous green colour. This makes it a great use-up dish when using the paler greener inner leaves for slaw, or even for my Keralan cabbage Thoran recipe this week. But it obviously works very well with any kale or Cavalo Nero too.

When it comes to the sausage, it really is hard to find good quality Portuguese sausage such as Linguica, however good chorizos are easily available now a days – Unearthed do spicy or oak smoked or Waitrose do their own brand Iberico Chorizo which comes with the added bonus of being already diced.

Caldo Verde in Pan

Caldo Verde
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
200g good quality chorizo, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
ground black pepper to taste
1 large cabbage, the outer leaves only or couple of heads of kale or  Cavalo Nero, shredded and washed
Smoked paprika

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion with plenty of olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chorizo and fry gently to release the fat. And potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more. Pour in water to cover, season well with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft all the way through. When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth. Add smoked paprika to taste and more seasoning. Meanwhile blanch your cabbage or kale into boiling, salted water for about three minutes. Remove and drain well, allowing to cool quickly. Add to soup and simmer. Stir in some more olive oil and serve at once.


Zuppa d’Aosta

So on to cabbage recipe two. This is one of the oddest soups ever. It comes from Aosta which is in Northern Italy, right up high in the Alps, so as you would expect it is very hearty soup and typically packed full of carbohydrates, bread and cheese. Like Fondu, Raclette or Tartiflette and other mountain recipes, it is affectionately known as rib-sticking, the dictionary definition being- to last long and fortify one well; [for food] to sustain one even in the coldest weather.

Obviously there is nothing strange about that, if you live in an extremely cold climate, which of course in London, we don’t. But what is a little extraordinary about this soup is that it is baked, and then what tips it over the edge of unusual recipes, is the combination of stale bread, loads and loads of cheese and cabbage along with anchovies! The anchovies act as an amazing sort of seasoning, which brings this whole soup into a world class of its own so don’t be tempted to leave them out.


I first made Zuppa d’Aosta at the River Café and it even features in their first book. Jamie Oliver rewrites it by adding loads more ingredients including the quite nice, but I think unnecessary addition of bacon. Good, strong bread is essential – I used Gail’s Sourdough, the cheese – should strictly be Fontina d’Aosta but even I struggled to find this, having to make do with a Fontina from Alpeggio (which describes the region rather than the town), which I got from Ocado.  Another place to try, if you are in Wimbledon on a Saturday morning, is the wonderful Vallebona,  Please do go,  if you have not been, because you will find the most amazing selection of mainly Sardinian delights, in the most unlikely setting of an industrial car-park.

If, however you just can’t find any Fontina, another mountain cheese will do such as Gruyere, Emmental or Gouda. Strange or not, as the weather turns colder,  this soup is guaranteed to warm you up.

Zuppa D'Aosta in Bowl

Zuppa d`Aosta
1 savoy or other hearty cabbage, Cavalo Nero or Kale works too
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf stale sourdough or ciabatta bread
large garlic clove peeled and halved
10 anchovy fillets
250g Fontina cheese
2l chicken stock, can be made up from good quality stock cubes
100g parmesan freshly grated

You will need a casserole or saucepan that can be put in the oven.
Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Remove the leaves from the cabbage heads one by one and cut out the thick stems from each leaf keeping the leaves whole. Use a mixture of the dark outer leaves and brighter green inner leaves. (The leaves are traditionally kept whole but you can roll them up and shred them, the advantage being that it makes the soup easier to eat.) Blanch the cabbage in boiling salted water for 1 minute then drain well. Cut the bread into slices on an angle to give them as much surface area as possible. Cut off any very tough exterior crusts. Toast the slices on both sides and rub with the garlic. Cut the anchovy fillets into slithers lengthways. Slice the Fontina into slivers. Bring the stock to the boil and season it.
In your casserole or pan make a first layer of cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Place 4 or 5 anchovy slithers evenly spaced on top, then a layer of Fontina followed by one third of the toasted bread. Sprinkle over some Parmesan and add stock to cover this layer. Make a second layer in the same way and then a third finishing with a top layer of bread, sprinkled with the last of the Parmesan. Make sure the stock just covers the top layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

zuppa d'aosta in bowl 2

Keralan cabbage & Carrot Thoran

I don’t know how it happened but I am overrun with cabbage this week. I had accumulated not one, but three cabbages in the fridge, so I decided this week to give you not one, but three cabbage recipes.

The first Keralan Cabbage and Carrot Thoran, is a recipe that I adapted for Riverford Companion – Autumn and Winter Veg and cooked once again at Simon’s SuperClub last week in St Mary’s Putney. I served it up with my Courgette, Aubergine and Red Pepper Curry and Coconut Cauliflower Rice but you can eat it just on its own, with rice or with some poppadoms.

It is a dry, vegetable and coconut curry from Kerala and you can add all sorts of vegetables. As always I felt the need to change the recipe very slightly, even though it was my own! I cut out the dried red chillis as I felt the birds eye green ones made it hot enough, but if you like it spicy, by all means add some more. If you can’t be bothered with fresh coconut, look for flaked, dry or even toasted coconut (not desiccated) in the baking section of large supermarkets or health food shops.

Cabbage Thoran

Keralan cabbage Thoran
3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 dried curry leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
30g fresh root ginger, finely grated into a paste
30g fresh garlic, finely grated into a paste
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
250g/9oz hispi, savoy or pointed spring cabbage (or spring greens), shredded into 5mm pieces
2 carrots, Julienned
2 fresh green birds-eye chillies, sliced into very thin rounds, with seeds
100g fresh shaved coconut, or dried flaked coconut
Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or Wok set over a medium heat, and, when hot, add the mustard seeds followed by the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the ginger and garlic paste, salt and black pepper and fry for 30 seconds.
Stir in the cabbage and carrots and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, adding a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan. Add the coriander and grated coconut and serve.