Thursday, 9 February 2012

Not quite Veg every day - but trying: onion upside down tart and sweet potato gratin

I should really have known better – Sweet Potato Gratin. I mean, even in the photo in Veg Everyday it looks rather sickly, but somehow I couldn’t resist. I think that the root of this is a Nigella recipe that is in Feast, in the Christmas/Thanksgiving section. I mean, it can only be an American recipe – but sweet potato topped with marshmallows? I don’t think so. But this (the Nigella) recipe holds a kind of terrible fascination for me. Every year, in the run up to Christmas, when I’m considering the possibilities, I read it and I wonder what it might possibly be like. The conclusion I usually reach is “revolting” and leave it for another year.

And yet, and yet... there’s part of me that secretly wants to cook it. Just to see. So maybe that’s why I scheduled this Sweet Potato gratin out of Veg Everyday for supper this evening. I am still on my mission to reduce our meat consumption. But after roast chicken on Sunday, and then Chilli on Monday and Blue’s special Bolognaise yesterday, I felt the need to up the veg intake. True, we had the Veg Everyday onion upside down tart on Tuesday – but for some reason it didn’t really feel very veg like. It must have been the pastry. It was very good and very easy, but there’s a similar Nigella recipe in Domestic Goddess – Onion Supper tart, I think she calls it, and from memory I have to say that Nigella’s is the more comforting and satisfying.

However, back to the matter in hand. The gratin. Very easy – and fits into my Thursday meal prep requirements – no more than 30 mins prep between getting home from the school run and going back out again to take Pink to Brownies, and will cook in the oven (and thus requires no attention) so that by the time I have gone back out to collect Pink and get home, it’s ready to serve. Ideally, I would have something in the freezer to avoid the 30 mins prep, but that was not to be this evening.

 The recipe involves sweet potatoes, cream garlic and chilli and then a middle layer which is peanut butter beaten with oil, lime zest and juice – a kind of orange and brown sandwich if you will. More misgivings - Pink doesn’t seem to like any kind of orange vegetable apart from carrots, and Blue doesn’t like peanut butter – nor does the Husband much for that matter. None of us are particularly fond of ‘sweet’ savoury dishes. Meat with fruit – that sort of thing, it just doesn’t work for us. About the closest is a kind of ‘sweet sour’ thing. Nigella’s African chicken which uses apricot jam in the marinade scrapes inside what is acceptable – and even reading the recipe I knew that this would come perilously close to the unacceptable boundary, but I couldn’t stop myself. It was on the menu planner, and that aside – what else was I going to do with a kilo of sweet potatoes. But then salvation came from an unexpected source. Half the sweet potatoes had gone squishy. What to do what to do? Not for the first time was I tempted to pop in to the butcher on the way to Rainbows abd get some sausages, But no. That would be cheating. Tonight was to be a veg night. So I substituted with white potatoes and carried on.

From a recipe point of view, it definitely works. It cooked very nicely and by the time we got back from Rainbows, freezing cold, it was ready to serve. We had it as suggested with fairly bitter salad leaves and having travelled more in hope than expectation, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The peanut butter ‘filling’ is a little cloying – and I used more lime juice than the recipe said. If I make it again I will probably use more – at least a limes’ worth. Actually, Nigella uses 2 limes’ worth in her marshmallow extravaganza. I also think that it was probably better for being half white potato – all sweet potato would I think have been too much. Blue managed slightly more enthusiasm for it than Pink, but then she’d had the benefit of biscuits at Rainbows. She happily ate her salad, picked out some of the potato to eat but rejected the rest on the basis that she didn’t like the orange. I tried to persuade her that if she ate it all in a mouthful rather than picking bits out it would be much better, but she wasn’t having any of it. And then, to cap it all, she got a mouthful of chilli. I thought I’d been careful about only a light sprinkling, obviously not. Blue had had a school dinner today rather than a packed lunch for the first time in ages, so the aching chasm wasn’t quite so aching this evening.
So there we go. Not quite ‘nul points’ but I’m not sure it’s going to make a reappearance on the menu any time soon, so sorry Hugh, but I’m sure you’ve got more things to worry about a the moment. Still, as I look at Nigella’s sweet potatoes with marshmallow extravaganza, I sense that I’m feeling not quite so compelled. And maybe next time, I’ll be able to listen more attentively to the little voice saying ‘don’t do it’ instead of forging on regardless.

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