Wednesday 11 November 2015

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum

Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

I've heard a lot about kale recently. This recipe might just serve as an introduction for me to this vegetable and its benefits. Plus, it is autumn and that means, Nigel Slater's cooking!

Sweet potato and kale bubble and squeak recipe

The recipe
Peel 1kg of sweet potatoes and cut them into large pieces. Place them in a steamer basket or colander and steam over boiling water for about 30-40 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.

In a dry frying pan, toast ½ tsp of cumin seed and ½ tsp of chilli flakes. Remove and mix them with ½ tsp of sweet, mild, ground paprika.

Lift the sweet potatoes out, tip them into a bowl (or the saucepan emptied of its water) and mash them thoroughly with a good 50g of butter, some salt and a grinding of black pepper, and the toasted cumin, chilli and paprika.

Remove the tough stalks from 150g of kale (you need 100g trimmed weight). Cook the kale for a minute or two in a saucepan with about 1cm of water, covered by a lid. Drain and roughly chop.

Fold the kale into the sweet potato. Pile into a dish, top with a few knobs of butter and bake for about 25 minutes until lightly crisped on the top. Serves 2, generously.

The trick
A steamer basket or a colander, balanced over a pan of boiling water, is probably a more successful way of cooking sweet potato than boiling it. The exceptionally soft flesh will collapse if cooked in water and produce a soggy mash. Toast the cumin seeds and chilli flakes in a dry frying pan, using no oil or butter, watching very carefully, as they will burn in a heartbeat.

The twist
Some floury Maris Pipers will be good here instead of the sweet potato, or use half potato and half celeriac. Kale is just one of the suitable brassicas: Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage or purple kale will all work well. Sprouts are best quartered, shredded or separated into individual leaves. Fold small pieces of cheese, a good 150g, through the hot potato when it is mashed. Blue cheeses work exceptionally well here, in which case I would omit the cumin.

The music

I would like to start this section tonight with my latest musical crush, Karine Polwart. I have just had a few of her CDs ordered for my birthday. You can judge by yourselves. Her voice sounds like pure autumn gold.

Another lady is my second guest tonight. All the way from Spain it is the hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners pop sensation, Bebe. Another voice that bubbles like the bubble and squeak recipe I have offered you tonight. Caution, though, this is no easy-listening pop, but pop with meaning and depth. Just like autumn.

Another CD I am getting soon. This is the type of collaboration I love, the sort of coming-together that makes music the beautiful human phenomenon it is. Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal, the former, a kora player, the latter, a cellist, creating magic. Just like autumn food.

Next Post: "Summer Tale for an Autumn Day", to be published on Sunday 15th November at 10am (GMT)


  1. We eat farmers' market kale weekly for months and are always looking for new recipes. Good tips too. We'll try this one thanks!
    Thanks for the intro to Karine Polwart. I wonder if her CDs are available in the US. I like her music and I think my musical daughter would too.
    The second video isn't available for viewing in the USA sadly.
    The last track was interesting. I love the cello but I prefer classical music.

  2. Hoy nos dejas una buena combinación entre la comida y la buena música, me imagino en la cocina escuchando todas estas buenas canciones.
    Un abrazo

  3. Not a big fan of kale, I go for spinach at my sea. They first two have great voices indeed.

  4. Since my kitchen skills are confined to the use of can openers and corkscrews and microwave ovens, and because I am among those who eat only out of necessity rather than live to eat, I will take a pass on your recipe, CiL.

  5. Love that recipe. And the hint about steaming sweet potato is a gem.

  6. Hi ACIL - the recipe sounds delicious .. I always loved bubble and squeak - and sweet potato is becoming a favourite and is good for us ... cheers Hilary

  7. I wish I'd read your piece about cooking sweet potato before I tried boiling it! Thanks for the tip. I am just about getting used to kale, which was recommended as part of hubby's diet.

  8. Hey Cubano--I have long been a very big fan of kale, which we grow in a garden. It grows very well where I live (in the mountains in New York State.) And it is delicious. I also love sweet potatoes--and cumin--so thank you for the recipe. I am staying in the City right now, at a friend's apartment, where all are sleeping so can't play the music but will try later. Thanks much for autumnal post! k.

  9. I'm a rubbish cook - but this looks scrummy, so I'll pass it to one of my daughters and stand around looking hungry.

  10. sweet potato and kale sounds a great combination (though I know my partner would disagree)

  11. I will definitely give this a try, looks absolutely scrumptious!
    I have also made the grave error of boiling sweet potato *smiles* many thanks for the tip. I will steam in future!
    Great music too.:)

    Have a great weekend...and Happy Birthday on Monday (just in case I can't be around then!) :))

  12. Hi Cubano! I've just your read comment re Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" on someone's blog. You mention "The Little Prince" - that caught my eye (even better in French). It was our set book for French A level when I was at school. I totally agree it is a book meant really for adults. Loved your favourite books list - many of those are mine.

  13. Oh yes - my kind of recipe!

  14. We ate kale quite often when I was a child, and I've always loved it, but I've never had it with sweet potatoes. Sounds terrific! Thanks.

    Have a terrific weekend!

  15. What an interesting recipe. Sweet potatoes with kale...this recipe I will try.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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