Sweet Potato and Leek Pasties

Maybe it was memories of Mussels down in Padstow, but I suddenly got a massive craving for a Cornish Pasty. Cornish pasties date back to the 13th Century, during the reign of Henry III. They were eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients such as potatoes, swede and onion. Meat was added later. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry, its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines. Luckily, now a days we can eat all the pastry and they are great in the kids lunch box, but the classic mix of beef, swede, onion and potato is set in stone and it would be considered sacrilege to modify these ingredients in any way.

But your pasty does not have to be Cornish. In fact, it could come from almost anywhere and contain whatever you like or have to hand. It is a fabulous way of using up left over root vegetables which is always helpful with a veg box in the winter; carrots, celeriac, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes and squashes all work fantastically well. It could be meat free but it certainly makes a little meat go a long way. Just remember whatever you put in your pasty, it must be cut pretty small and must all cook in the same time. I always worry with pies when the ingredients go in raw, that the filling won’t cook or I will end up with soggy pastry, but as long as the pieces in your filling are never any larger than about 1cm, and the pastry is sealed well, the pasty acts like a little steamer and they always turn out great.

My next top tip for busy cooks, is ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pasty. The supermarkets have really got their acts together on the pastry front and you can find a good selection of all-butter pastries in the chilled or freezer section. Check the ingredients and make sure that they contain little more than butter and flour and you can guarantee that they will be good.

So here is a vegetarian version with nothing more than sweet potato and leek. I haven’t called them Cornish as they have no meat or swede, but you can add whatever you like and call it whatever you like too.

Pasty on a plate

Sweet Potato and Leek Pasties
1 large sweet potato, peeled
2 leeks, shredded, washed well and drained well
salt and freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
2 packets of ready rolled all-butter shortcrust pasty
1 egg, lightly whisked

Chop the sweet potatoes into cubes, no bigger than 1 cms and mix together with the leeks, plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly grease a baking tray with butter or line with baking or silicone paper. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Cut your pasty in to discs roughly 15cms wide. I use a small bowl to cut round. Spoon some mixture into the middle of each disk (be generous, you can get in more than you think) and top with a large knob of butter. Then bring the pastry around and crimp together. I find the ready rolled pastry stick fine but they are best if you turn the pastry over before filling. The down side sticks best. Do not get the pastry wet or that will stop is sealing. A genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top but I like mine the other way. It is up to you. Just make sure it is well sealed and has plenty of filling. Put the pasties onto the baking tray and brush the top of each pasty with the egg. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pasties are golden-brown.

pasty being made

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini

This week I opted for a medium veg box less roots, and I have to say, I haven’t been quite so excited about my vegetable selection for a while. Sometimes I struggle for inspiration, for what to conjure up with yet more vegetables, but this week I could have used up my box three times over. The sight of parsnips and Brussel sprouts fills me with joy and is one of the few things I really look forwards to about winter – shorter days, central heating, layers of clothes, colds, mud and rain – no thank you but seasonal winter vegetables, being earthed up after a whole summer in the ground – now that’s a treat.

I started by putting nearly the whole box in one dish. A Moroccan inspired Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous. I put in the red onions, the parsnips, the aubergine, the cauliflower and the courgettes. Then I threw in half a butternut squash I had left after making last week’s muffin. Had I had carrots, sweet potato or peppers in my box, they would have gone in too. You could serve this with Cauliflower Cous Cous, my obsession of the last few weeks but this week I was yearning for the real thing.

When it comes to Harissa, they vary in heat, so be careful. My favourite is Rose Harissa which is packed with flavour, without being overtly hot, so you can use generously.

Roast Veg in Tray

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini
Serves 4
½ butternut squash, squash into bite-size pieces (you can leave skin on the squash, it’s up to you).
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks
3 courgettes, thickly sliced 1 ½ cms
½ cauliflower broken in to large florets, each cut in half
4 garlic cloves, leave skin on
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges through the root
1 aubergine, cut into large bite-sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Ras el Hanuot
2 tbsp harissa paste
6 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tbsp. Tahini
1 lemon
200g couscous
Bunch of fresh coriander
4 small preserved lemons, seeds removed and finely chopped
Sea salt

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Mix the harissa with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Ras el Hanout and the cumin seeds. Add a teaspoon of salt. Use this to coat the vegetables before roasting. It is important that they have enough room, spread out on baking trays. Some veg, such as courgettes and aubergines benefit from having a tray to themselves if you want to make sure they brown. Root vegetables such as parsnips and squash which cook in similar times can share a tray. They cauliflower, onions and garlic cloves go together on another. Roast for 15 minutes before checking and moving around the veg to ensure even cooking. Check again after another 15 minutes and remove or give longer. They should all be golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, make the Tahini dressing by very simply adding the juice of half a lemon to the Tahini with a large pinch of salt. Stir in enough water to make a smooth, creamy consistency. Check seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

Meanwhile put couscous into a large bowl and put the kettle on. Mix the final tablespoon of olive oil in with the cous cous and a large pinch of salt. Massage the oil into the cous cous and then cover with boiling water. Set aside for 10 mins. Fluff up with a fork.

Meanwhile, chop your coriander and preserved lemons and add to the cous cous when ready. When the roast veg are ready, toss together, check seasoning and pile onto of the cous cous. Drizzle with the Tahini sauce.

Cous cous

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

This week I started with a medium veg box (less roots) and once again, Mexico was my first thought. Sweetcorn, sweet potatoes peppers and coriander and, I hate to say it but it might have been the hint of Autumn in the air,  which made me think of this “Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli”.

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chilli

I have made it many time before and I love it because it is so versatile. You can have it on its own,  with rice, in a jacket potato, add a tortilla wrap and you have a burrito or serve it up in Taco shells. You can even liquidise it and have it as soup. Or how about in an enchiladas or quesadilla. Add what you like – charred sweetcorn, tomato salsa, guacamole, sour cream or cheese. The possibilities are endless.

Taco Shells

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed Chipotle Chillis
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped
Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Add bell peppers and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. Stir often to avoid burning. Stir in garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs and spices. Stir and cook 1 minute. Next add the sweet potato. Give everything a good mix and add tomatoes and enough water to cover the sweet potato. Simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked. Stir in beans, and continue to cook 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and stir in lime juice. Finally add the coriander and adjust the seasoning to taste.

guacomole

Guacamole

Guacomole can be used to heat up a dish or cool it down so bare this in mind when adding the chilli. The most important factor to perfect guacamole is using good, ripe avocados. Check for ripeness by gently pressing the outside of the avocado. If there is no give, the avocado is not ripe yet and will not taste good. If there is a little give, the avocado is ripe. If there is a lot of give, the avocado may be past ripe and not good.

2 ripe avocados
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
1 fresh red or green Serrano chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
½ bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lime
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
Drizzle of Olive Oil

Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out and put in a mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, coriander, lime, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chilli peppers vary individually in their hotness. Start with a little, add more to taste. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

Sweet Potato Chilli

 

Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

Judging by how quiet the roads still are, I am assuming that most people are still away. And with the rather disappointing weather of late, who would blame them. But I am back from my holidays in the South of France so it is time to get blogging again and I will be concentrating on healthy eating. As always the markets in France were piled high with fantastic vegetables. They really put the English to shame in their conviction of taste over appearance on the veg front. No perfectly uniform, identical greenhouse grown Dutch vegetables here. All sorts of knobbly and imperfect specimens make it to the market stalls which are inspected and chosen with much consideration, conversation and examination.

Market France

But as fantastic as the vegetables were, it appears to have been the Croissant and cheese that made the biggest impact on my diet and weight. So now I am back, I am focused on “healthy eating” and thought I might try a few recipes from a new book I just bought “A Modern Way to Eat” by Anna Jones. I was particularly looking for a new recipe for sweetcorn and thought that “Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad” sounded wholesome.

I have never been a massive raw kale fan so I was keen to see how the “scrunching” works which Anna says is equally good with spinach, Cavolo Nero and spring greens. “I keep the kale raw, which might seem a bit unusual. I love to eat kale raw – but I always scrunch it with lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt first. This does something amazingly fresh and different to it – the cellulose breaks down, so it softens and sweetens into buttery little ribbons. It is a super-quick and because you aren’t cooking it all the nutrients stay intact” and I have to say that that it did make a difference and the whole salad was really delicious. I just changed the honey for maple syrup and added a little chilli to the sweet potatoes. The caramelised beautifully but keep an eye on them as they burn easily.

Charred Sweetcorn, Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

Charred Corn, Scrunched Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
4 sweet potatoes, washed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon runny honey
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g head of curly kale
Juice of ½ a lime
2 corn on the cob
1 ripe avocado, peeled, destoned and sliced
For the dressing:
Juice of ½ a lime
A handful of cashews (soaked overnight if you have time)
½ a bunch of fresh coriander
2 tablespoons coconut milk

Method

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.

Place the sweet potatoes on a roasting tray with the paprika, cumin, honey, a good splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss together, then roast for 40 minutes, until soft on the inside and charred and caramelised outside.

Strip the kale from its stems and rip or chop it into little bite-size pieces. Put into a large bowl, squeeze over the lime juice and add a pinch of salt. Use your hands to scrunch the kale for a minute or so, then place to one side.

Next, heat a griddle pan until screaming hot. Add the corn and char it on each side, turning it from time to time. Once charred all over, let it cool, then cut the kernels from the corn cobs and add them to the bowl of kale.

Put all the dressing ingredients into a blender with 2 tablespoons of water and a good pinch of salt. Blitz until almost smooth and grassy green.

Taste, and add more lime juice or salt if you think it needs it.
Add the sweet potatoes to the kale and corn, then add the avocado to the bowl too.

Pour over the dressing and toss the lot together.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato wedges

I never used to know what to do with Sweet Potatoes and I was always concocting elaborate curries and chillies to use them up but I had forgotten how delicious simple roast Sweet Potato Wedges were until my son asked me to make them for him instead of potatoes. I lightly sprinkled them with a little salt and some smoked paprika, drizzled them with a little olive oil and roast them in the oven at 190⁰C for about half and hour until soft in the middle but crispy and golden on the outside. I then served them with a couple of dips – Crème Fraiche (Riverford’s is very good) and the other was some Sweet Chilli Sauce (once again, Riverford do make their own) and it soon became a firm, family favourite.

sweet potato wedges