22 January 2011

I would rather roast in hell than boil in heaven....

When I was in Spain this past summer, I made a remarkable discovery.

Olive oil is supposed to taste like....olives.  This should be obvious, I know~~but unless you have tasted truly authentic cold-pressed Italian or Spanish olive oil you could go your entire life thinking that Don Carlos was truly the king of this ancient and noble culinary accoutrement.  Due to this discovery, I've become a vegetable roasting convert.  Now, don't misunderstand ~~ I've never been a fan of boiling veg, I always preferred mine steamed to just barely al dent√® ~~ but if you want to bring out the truly intense flavour, roasting is the only way to go.

The best example of this I've come across so far is sweet potato.  Another shocking discovery for me, as I had been under the impression for years that I didn't like sweet potato.  'Why', you ask?  I couldn't honestly tell you...in truth, I wouldn't even be able to tell you when I had last even tasted it.  It was just one of those things lodged in my brain.

Thankfully, there must have been some sweet potato dissident sympathisers up there in the old grey matter, for when I came across a recipe for gnocchi made not from your typical white stem tuber but rather it's vivid orange cousin~~I was intrigued and couldn't wait to try it.

The recipe directed me to peel and cut up the sweet potato and boil it.  Sorry, no can do.  From my research~~and what I learned from my mammy~~most of a potato's goodness and nutrients are found in the skin, so it had to stay.  If I wasn't going to like how it tasted, it would at least be good for me.

So I gave it them a gentle scrub (these healthy skins are also very delicate) and cubed them up and gave them a good toss in my favourite Spanish olive oil, Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  They went into a 200°c (400° f) oven until  they were crispy and golden.  When they looked 'right', as is my habit, I popped one into my mouth....and then another one, and then just one more.   How shocked was I that not only were they edible, but downright delicious?  Truly, as I was almost as stunned as the day I realised I love brussel sprouts.

I had to pull myself up short here, and proceed on with the gnocchi (honestly, I would have been happy to empty that roasting tin onto a plate and just finished off those golden nuggets of loveliness on their own).  I used the same 'recipe' that my lovely neighbour Monika explained to me in making Polish Kopytka.  Mash up the potato, add an egg and a bit of salt and proceed to add flour until you get a manageable dough.  It was a bit different in the handling, needing more flour than I was accustomed to, but I think it was just down to the olive oil used in the roasting.  In the end, it came together....not a pretty dough, but I knew the secret that it held.

The next bit, I'm sure, will get easier with time.  You divide the dough into portions that are easy to handle.  If you are used to working with pastry/bread dough, you could probably divide the dough into eight pieces.  For me and my two hands made up of thumbs, I divided it into about 16 parts.  You roll each of these into 'snakes' and then cut them into nuggets about an inch long.  At this point, you need to give 'em sauce catchers...yep, that is exactly what it sounds like.  By rolling each of the nuggets under the tines of a fork, you get four little channels in the dough that 'catches' the sauce/oil/butter you dress them with.  It's a bit fiddly, but you will be so glad you did it when you sit down to pasta bowl of these babies dancing in a browned butter and roasted garlic sauce.

They flash freeze well, and it's great to have a ziplok bag of these in the freezer to toss into a pan of boiling water.  Just let them drip dry a bit after the boiling on some parchment paper and then fry them in a hot pan with your choice of oil until they get nice and crispy.  You could top them with sauce, but they also stand quite well on their own.

Sweet potatoes, who woulda thought?


  1. Looks delicious! Can you come cook dinner for me?

  2. Thanks for stopping by MizLeilaB <3

  3. Not only a brilliant article, but it reflects my VERY strongly held opinion as to how sweet potato should be cooked. SW