Sweet potato cakes

These sweet potato cakes are dead easy to make, and perfect for brunch or supper. You could also make smaller cakes and serve them as a snack with some salsa or chutney. We had them for brunch with a poached egg on top and a fresh, crunchy salad. To keep it vegan, serve a sliced avocado or a good dollop of coconut yoghurt alongside the potato cakes instead of the egg. This is a very useful recipe when you have left-over roasted or boiled sweet potato – sometimes you can only get enormous ones, which are far too big to get through all at once.

The potato cakes are very soft – you could use more cornflour and chill them for longer if you want firmer, neater patties – but I don’t mind them being a bit wonky, and they held together fine in the pan. Adjust the chilli content to your taste, and chilli flakes would work too if you don’t have any fresh chilli. You could, of course, omit the ginger and chilli and use parsley and lemon zest instead of coriander and lime zest if you wanted a milder, more soothing brunch. Serves 2.

1 large sweet potato (about 300g)
2 spring onions
1cm ginger
1 clove garlic
1 red or green chilli
zest of 1/2 lime
6 sprigs coriander
1 tbsp cornflour
salt and black pepper
2 tbsps quick-cook polenta
1 tbsp olive oil

2 tomatoes
5cm cucumber
6 radishes
1 stick celery
Coriander leaves
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp olive oil

To serve (optional):
2 eggs or 100g coconut yoghurt
1 avocado



Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the sweet potato and cut into small chunks. Add to the boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes until tender to a fork, then drain thoroughly in a colander.img_5453.jpg


Trim and finely chop the spring onions, peel and grate the ginger and garlic, de-seed and finely chop the chilli and put into a bowl with the zest of lime. Finely chop the coriander, including any soft stalks, and add that too. Tip the drained sweet potatoes into the bowl and mash them into the other ingredients.


Add the tablespoon of cornflour and mix well. Then spread the polenta onto a plate. Take a quarter of the mixture, shape into a pattie and dump on top of the polenta. Carefully turn it over (using a spatula helps) so that it is completely coated in the polenta.



Move the potato cake onto a plate or board and do the same with the rest of the mixture to give four sweet potato cakes. Pop them into the fridge to firm up for a few minutes while you clear the decks, make salad and lay the table.


For our salad we just diced the vegetables listed and dressed them with lime juice and olive oil. Diced red pepper or red onion would also be nice, as well as or instead of the ones listed. Or you could just prepare a regular green salad.


Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. If you’re having poached eggs put a shallow pan of water on to heat.

When the oil is hot use a spatula to transfer the potato cakes into the pan and leave to cook undisturbed – resist the urge to fiddle with them – on a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the bottom is crisp and golden. Turn them over carefully with the spatula and cook the other side.

Slice the avocado, if having, and squeeze over a few drops of lemon or lime juice to stop it discolouring. If you’re having poached eggs, about 3 minutes before the potato cakes are ready crack each one into a cup and slip into just simmering water. Cook for 3 minutes or until done to your taste. Use a slotted spoon to scoop each one from the water and blot any excess moisture with a kitchen towel.

Serve the potato cakes with their sides and salad for a satisfying, spicy brunch.

Sweet potato cake and egg

Shakshuka: eggs with peppers and tomatoes

ShakshukaThis cheering dish of eggs on a bed of spicy pepper and tomato sauce is perfect for brunch or a homely lunch. After a morning of errands, we were restored by a dish of shakshuka eaten with a loaf of the excellent sourdough from the Quality Chop House shop.

If entertaining, you could cook the vegetables ahead of time, then just reheat and add the eggs when you’re ready to eat. These quantities are for two, if eating it on its own for lunch, but would feed four as part of a brunch menu.

1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 leek
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
½-1 red chilli
1 tin tomatoes
salt and pepper
4 eggs
coriander or parsley to serve

Peel, halve and slice the red onion, and trim and slice the leek. The leek is strictly unorthodox, but is a nice addition. Remove the core and seeds from the peppers and slice into thin strips – you could use two red peppers, or red and yellow ones if you prefer. The peppers I used were quite small, so you might find one big one is enough. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid. Add the onions, then the leeks, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure they don’t catch. Peel and mince the garlic and add to the pan.

The amount of chilli you use depends on how much heat you like and how hot your chillies are – I used half a small hot chilli, chopped and with most of the seeds taken out. You could also use chilli powder if you don’t have a fresh chilli to hand. Add the chilli and sliced peppers to the pan and continue to cook for about five minutes until they are starting to soften. Add the tomatoes – but not the juice from the can – and crush them into the vegetables. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. You can prepare it ahead up to this point, in which case be sure to heat the vegetables through before you add the eggs.

The vegetables should all have softened and amalgamated. Make four indentations in the top of the sauce, and crack an egg into each one. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, to give firm whites and slightly soft yolks – however, this will vary according to your pan and stove, so keep an eye on them, and you will need longer if you like your yolks cooked through.

Chop a handful of coriander leaves or parsley and sprinkle over before serving with some good bread to mop up the delicious sauce.



Buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat PancakeAs Shrove Tuesday, pancake day, falls this week (on Tuesday 9 February), I thought I would post my current favourite pancake recipe – a Breton buckwheat galette. I have always had a weakness for the crèpes you buy at the little market or street stalls in Paris, filled with crème de marrons, and I used to love the traditional thin pancakes my mother cooked for Shrove Tuesday, eaten hot from the pan with just lemon juice, sugar and butter. These days, though, I find they rarely live up to that childhood memory, and I prefer the taste of these buckwheat pancakes. Moreover, these are wheat and gluten-free, so ideal for those who are on gluten-free diets, and you can use water instead of milk. Filled with spinach and cheese, with or without a poached (or fried) egg, they make a great brunch, lunch or supper dish. With a slice of ham, some grated gruyère and an egg you have a Galette Complète – the Breton equivalent of British bacon and eggs.

I made them again recently because I found a packet of Farine de Sarrasin (aka buckwheat flour), bought the last time I was in Brittany, which needed using up. That sent me looking for my Breton cookbook – I found this recipe, but not a single one for a galette. Then I looked online and found a David Leibowitz recipe, but it uses a combination of buckwheat and plain flour, which wasn’t going to help me use up the buckwheat flour. So I based my recipe on the one on the packet of flour. Remember that you need to mix the batter at least a couple of hours ahead – or better still the night before you need it. This quantity makes enough for two savoury galettes with enough over to serve smaller galettes with a sweet topping (see below) for dessert.

125g buckwheat flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
250ml water or milk
20g butter for cooking

For savoury filling:
200g spinach
grated nutmeg
100g goat’s cheese or gruyère
2 eggs
2 slices of honey-roast ham (if desired)

Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the beaten egg into the well along with the oil or melted butter and a couple of grinds of salt. Gradually work them into the flour with a spatula, starting from the centre and adding the water or milk gradually until the batter has the consistency of double cream. Beat the batter briskly with a whisk for about 3 minutes until it is smooth and there are no lumps. Leave the batter to rest for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.

To prepare the galettes take the batter out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Prepare the spinach: wash the leaves and cook them in a saucepan over medium heat, covered with a lid, in the water that clings to the leaves after washing. Stir once or twice until the spinach has all wilted – this should only take 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat, press the spinach with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out the excess liquid and stir in a good nut of butter, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and put over very low heat to keep warm. Fill a small pan half full of water, and put a piece of kitchen towel on a plate or small board. Grate the gruyère or if using goat’s cheese cut it into small chunks.

Turn the oven on low (about 120ºC) and put two plates in to warm. Put a large solid frying pan or crèpe pan, preferably non-stick, over a medium-high heat. If you wish, you can cook all the galettes and then warm them up when you’re ready to eat them, which is probably sensible, but I never do this as I think they taste best as fresh as possible.

Turn the heat on under the pan of water and crack the first egg into a cup. When the pan of water reaches a simmer, slip the first egg into the water, turn down the heat so that just the odd bubble rises to the surface and poach the egg until the egg white is set (about 3 minutes). Take out of the pan with a slotted spoon and put to drain on the kitchen towel you have put ready. Cook the other egg in the same way (you can use these poachies, which I’m told are very good and make it easier to cook two eggs at once).

Give the buckwheat batter a good stir and thin with a little more water or milk if necessary, as it may have thickened after standing – it should be the consistency of double cream. When the pan is hot put in a good knob of butter and swirl it round the pan – use a paper towel to wipe the butter around the pan if necessary. Pour a ladleful of batter into the pan and immediately tip the pan to spread it as thinly as you can. The professionals use a dinky wooden utensil for this, and I find a straight-ended wooden spatula very useful to spread the batter thinly and evenly around the pan.

When the underside of the first galette is cooked and releases easily from the pan (a minute or two) turn it over and cook the other side. Put the first galette onto a warm plate in the low oven. Add another nut of butter to the pan and cook the second galette in the same way.

When both galettes and eggs are cooked, put a slice of ham (if using) in the centre of each galette, mix the cheese into the spinach, add half the mixture to each and top with a poached egg. Fold the edges of the galette in to enclose the filling like a little parcel and serve.

When you’re ready for dessert use the remaining batter to make two more galettes and fill them with, for example:

  • warm stewed plums with vanilla ice-cream
  • sliced apples cooked briefly in a little butter and a tbsp of Calvados, ideally served with salted caramel sauce, or maple syrup
  • Crème de marrons with whipped cream (the French would whip in a little icing sugar to turn it into crème Chantilly)

I tend to serve the sweet pancake either open or just folded in half, rather than folded like a parcel.

The traditional drink with galettes is cider, but I find wine or apple juice go just fine too. Then retire to the sofa and plan your next holiday in Brittany…

Sweet potato pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes






Now, here’s an Ottolenghi recipe from Nopi which is just the thing for a wet, gloomy November day – a 2015 version of the fluffy American-style pancakes that our family friend Balazs used to serve on Saturday mornings with strong coffee and heated political debate.

700g sweet potatoes (2 medium)
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tap grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, separated
150ml full-fat milk
50g butter melted plus 50g for frying
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp runny honey

To serve:
Greek yoghurt
Date or maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 220°C Fan and bake the unpeeled sweet potatoes on a tray lined with baking paper for about 40-50 mins until the flesh is soft and the skin shrivelled. I cooked them for 40 mins and left them to finish cooking in the cooling oven.

When cool, peel off the skin, and squeeze the flesh in a piece of muslin (or, in my case, an underused jelly bag) to extract any liquid. You should end up with around 320g sweet potato purée.

Mix together the dry ingredients with a little salt. Whisk together the egg yolks, milk, melted butter, vanilla and honey in a separate bowl and then fold into the dry ingredients, and stir in the sweet potato. Whisk well until smooth. [you can make ahead to this point]

Heat oven to 160°C Fan. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the potato mix.

Heat a good nut of butter in a large frying pan over medium-hot heat. Use 2 tbsp of the mixture for each pancake – you should be able to get 3 in the pan. Cook for about 2 mins (my first batch took a little longer) until bubbles appear in the middle and they are lightly browned underneath. Turn carefully and cook for a further 1-2 mins.

Transfer to a warm dish in the oven while you cook the remainder, adding a fresh nut if butter between each batch.

Serve topped with yoghurt and a drizzle of syrup (with bacon on the side for carnivores. We think roast field mushrooms would be good with them too if you’re feeding vegetarians).

Mushrooms on toast with poached egg

Quick and easy lunch or supper – I made it with wild mushrooms that were left over from another dish, but chestnut or field mushrooms would be just as nice.

Mushrooms on toast with poached egg

150g mushrooms
knob of butter
splash of olive oil
1 clove garlic (optional), peeled and crushed
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp cream (optional)
squeeze of lemon juice
1 slice of sourdough bread, toasted
1 egg

Wipe the mushrooms if necessary, trim the bottom of the stem and slice thickly. Warm the butter and oil in a frying pan, and toss in the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, stirring from time to time over medium heat, add garlic if you are using and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently until the mushrooms are soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the cream if using (crème fraîche good, but any type is fine), a little lemon juice and half the parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to a simmer (ie. bubbles should just be rising to the surface). Crack the egg and slip into the water (this is easiest if you crack the egg into a cup and then you can just slide it into the water). Turn the heat down, so that the water stays at a quiet simmer, and leave for about 3 mins until the egg white is cooked. Put the sourdough on to toast.

Butter the toast, pile the mushrooms on top. Take out the poached egg using a slotted spoon and put on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle over the rest of the parsley and season with salt and black pepper.