What is it that makes certain meals so memorable? That perfectly chilled martini and plate of fresh seafood at Maestro in Montreal. The ambrosial starter of baked feta with honey and chilli on a rooftop restaurant in Skiathos. The leek and mushroom tart they served at JSheekey. All of these meals have been seared in our memories (and by our, I mean myself and my husband ‘s) but most turned out to be disappointing when we tried to relive the experience years later. The exception being the tart at JSheekey’s which remained excellent for many years until it was taken off their menu – still in mourning about that.
It may have been the thrill of discovering a new restaurant, or the joy of tasting something exciting and new. Home cooking on the other hand is not often about discovery and excitement – because once you discover a new recipe or flavour combination you love, you will be making it again and again. And there’s definite joy and comfort in that familiarity. Take this dish of roasted sweet potatoes – I must have made it countless times, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Simple recipes are usually the ones you end up replaying again and again, sometimes throwing in a couple of new ingredients to make them shiny and new.
This time I threw in butternut squash, a healthy dose of chilli, honey, halloumi cheese and a drizzle of basil oil. A scattering of mixed seeds adds a bit of crunch and all your need to round off the meal is some quinoa or couscous. Originally I intended to make this with feta cheese only to discover, after 40 minutes of roasting, that we had run out. Halloumi works really well to add a salty note to cut through the spicy sweetness, but feta would be probably even better.
PS: If you have taken a shine to my new dishes in this post, these are from the Calisto range at Harbour living. I love how they have slightly irregular edges and plenty of personality – the better to show off the food.
100g |3.5oz halloumi cheese, cut into small cubes
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
2-3 large sweet potatoes, cut into large wedges
1 small butternut squash, seeds removed, cut into wedges
3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
handful mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed)
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2. Rinse the sweet potatoes, pat them dry and cut into large wedges. Do the same with the squash.
3. Put the wedges on a tray and then drizzle with the honey, olive and sesame oil. Toss everything together so that they are coated in the oil. Season with salt and pepper, add the garlic and chillies and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Check on them once or twice and toss them round a bit.
4. Once the vegetables are fork tender, add the cheese and roast for a further 10 minutes or until it starts to melt.
5. Put the basil leaves, garlic, and oil in a mini chopper or blended and blitz until smooth. Drizzle the basil oil over the dish and scatter with the mixed seeds. Serve with quinoa or couscous.
NOTE: You can use feta cheese or kefalotyri instead of the halloumi. A little fresh spinach mixed in at the end so it wilts is a great addition.