July was a scary month for us. Our four year old was in hospital with suspected encephalitis ... She started hallucinating so we rushed her to the Chelsea and Westminster where she was put on intravenous antibiotics for five days.
Having never spent a night in hospital my eyes were opened to the NHS. The doctors and nurses gave our daughter wonderful care. Nothing was too much trouble day or night. They worked long shifts dealing with not just sick children but also worried parents. We left with a real sense of admiration for all the staff on Neptune ward. A big thank you to you all.
After five days of fairly bland hospital food Thea and I were both very keen for some home cooking ... as we got in the car, Thea asked for duck breast with asparagus ... she was definitely feeling better! Over the next few days we ate both of her requests as well as a lot of other fruit and veg as we got her strength back up.
Last week we thought a family outing was needed. We popped up to Westbourne Grove and spent the morning showing the children all the wonderful produce and playing ‘name the vegetable’ in Daylesford Organic. We popped into Melt (a wonderful chocolate shop) and watched the chocolatier creating stunning treats and finished by having lunch in one of our favourite places ... Ottolenghi.
If you have not been I urge you to. It is wonderful. The window is piled high with the most beautiful cakes and meringues. As you walk past the cakes you see the savoury food ... enormous white dishes are filled with the most stunning food. Butternut squash, herbs, aubergine, nuts, beef ... it is quite simply ... food heaven.
We had a delicious meal and Thea has not stopped asking to go back. We are now on holiday and I packed ‘Ottolenghi the Cookbook’ so we could enjoy more wonderful flavours while we are away.
Yesterday we had a shoulder of lamb and I cooked the following sweet potato dish. It was delicious and so wonderful to sit round a table with two healthy children. As we raised our glasses I said a little thank you to all those who helped her get better ...
OTTOLENGHI’S ROAST SWEET POTATO WITH PECAN AND MAPLE - Serves 4-6 as a side
850g Sweet Potato, 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, 35g Pecan Nuts, 4 Spring Onions (thinly sliced), 4 Tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf Parsley, 4 Tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf Coriander, 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Chilli Flakes, 35g Sultanas, Salt and Pepper
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup, 1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice, 2 Tablespoons Orange Juice, 2 Teaspoons Grated Fresh Ginger, 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- Heat the oven to 190
- Do not peel the sweet potatoes. Cut of and discard the ends of the sweet potato and then slice the remaining into 2cm rounds and place into a baking tray.
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and mix with your hands. Once all the sweet potato is covered spread them out on the baking tray, the sweet potato rounds should not be touching.
- Pop them in the oven for 30 minutes until just tender. Turn them over gently half way through cooking.
- Place the pecans in a frying pan and on a low heat gently toast them. Stir them every ten second or so with a wooden spoon ... it should take a couple of minutes to toast them. Remove them from the pan and place on a dry chopping board to cool. Once cool roughly chop them.
- To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small bowl with some salt and pepper and mix together. Taste and adjust the seasoning
- When the potatoes are ready transfer them into a large bowl or plate with high sides. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes while you cut up the herbs. Add the spring onions, parsley, coriander, chilli, pecans and sultanas and then pour over the dressing. Toss the ingredients together gently to combine all the flavours. Season to taste and serve hot or at room temperature.
Take care not to over cook the sweet potato, they need to be just tender. If you cook them too much they will go mushy and fall apart when you add the other ingredients.
The pecans need to be hot in the pan for about a minute any longer and they will burn. Once cooked remove them from the frying pan or they will continue to cook and may burn. If you are not sure about cooking them in a frying pan you can cook them in the oven. Place on a baking tray and pop in at 190 for 4-5 minutes.
If your sultanas are a little hard (it sometimes happens if they have been sitting in the back of your cupboard for a while) then pop them in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and dry before adding to the salad.
If you are not sure about any of the ingredients do substitute them ... I would recommend trying it as written above first and then adapting if you want to. I was not sure about the sultanas ... but they work really well.