Why “Valentine” ? This recipe was inspired by one that Valentine Warner did on “What to eat now” – a seasonal ingredient cooking programme that I particularly enjoyed. Courgettes are one of those veg that go a tad prolific in season – you pick a load for dinner and by morning you could be having the next lot for breakfast. This version of the recipe is quick & easy – great for a veg side dish, a salad for summer buffet, and combines quickly with other veggie dishes too.
I love finding vegetarian and vegan recipes that are tasty enough to turn a carnivore, and the veggie recipes I cook at our tasty Mountain Retreats have done exactly that rather often. Perception of vegetarian food is so often based on unfortunate experiences with cardboardburgers or bland pulse dishes, which is a bit of a shame. Far better to have a few wonderfully tasty, filling veggie meals in your repertoire, ones that will satisfy most appetites and produce suitably yumming-it-down sounds. This one’s a great winter filler – and if you’re still phased by the idea of a veggie meal, you can always cook these up anyway and serve with a steak!
Sweet Potato & Chestnut Cakes (Serves 4)
450g sweet potatoes
25g dried porcini mushrooms
50g butter (or dairy-free spread for vegans)
10 spring onions
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbl fresh ginger
200g cooked chestnuts
2 tbl parsley
salt and pepper
The Potato Bit
First stab the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times, place in a roasting tin and cook in a hot oven (200C or Aga roasting oven) for 40-60 minutes until soft.
Whilst they’re in oven, put the porcini in a jug and add 250ml of boiling water. Cover and leave to soak for at least twenty minutes, then strain and chop up fairly small. (If you’re in a cooking mood, use the strained liquid to make a mushroom sauce, or add to soups or gravy).
Once the potatoes are cooked and really soft, cut them in half and scoop the soft inner flesh out into a bowl. Mash it until it is really smooth – a spoon should be fine for this. Add the chopped up porcini, crumble up the cooked chestnuts and mix the lot together.
Finely chop the spring onions, peel and grate the ginger, chop the parsley, and powder the cumin seeds in a pestle & mortar.
In a saucepan, fry the spring onions, cumin and ginger in butter (or a vegan dairy-free spread) for a minute or so until softening. Add them to the sweet potato mix, together with the chopped parsley. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper, taste check.
Shaping & Cooking
Spread a generous amount of plain flour onto a plate, then take a heaped tablespoonful of the potato mix and with a very light touch, roll it in the flour to form a ball, then flatten gently. Repeat for each potato cake.
Chill the shaped cakes in the fridge for about half an hour which will help them firm up, then fry gently for about 5 minutes on each side until the outside is crispy.
Serve with rich wintery green veg like spinach, curly kale or maybe with some roasted onions.
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