Baked Sweet Potato with all the fillings

Dinner for two sounds awfully romantic doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking – candlelight, some soft jazz and a glass/two/bottle of Merlot. It’s a night to remember as you gaze at that someone special/mildly memorable and wonder if it would blow the mood to suggest binge watching Game of Thrones.

But folks, dinner for two can be something a lot more down to earth. Ditch the candles and bin the George Benson cd – dinner for two can be survival on a week night. If you’ve got children (I feel your pain) then it’s homework and tantrums and trying to prise a phone out of their sharp, beady talons. It’s laundry and work emails that don’t care what time it is.

Then suddenly 9:00 p.m. and you realize – hey, guess what? – you haven’t eaten anything since that highly suspect tuna fish sandwich at noon. It’s at times like this – and we’ve all had them – that you need something you can get on the table ASAP. Before you can press speed dial for pizza delivery, you can have a baked sweet potato done and on the table. (That is if you use our very good friend the microwave.)

And if you’re really tired, feel free to eat dinner in bed. We won’t tell. Honest.

Serves 2

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 lb total weight)

1 oz goat’s cheese or feta cheese, a nice size chunk

3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

1 or 2 spring onions, sliced

pumpkin seeds, to garnish

 

Green chile butter

1 stick/4 oz. butter, softened

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tsp green jalapeño powder

zest of 1 lime

Salt

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a sharp knife. Microwave at high heat for 5 minutes, check and microwave in 2 minute intervals until tender all the way through.

To make the green chile butter, mix the softened butter with the chopped cilantro, green jalapeño powder and lime zest. Taste and add salt as needed and place in a ramekin.

When the sweet potatoes are done, slice down the middle, add a healthy spoonful of the butter. Divide the cheese between the servings, add the sliced radishes and spring onions and garnish with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and the extra cilantro. Eat it up while it’s hot and then in bed – it’s a school night.

Ham it up

Is there too much of a good thing? Before you answer ‘yes’, let me introduce you to the ham I made on New Year’s Day. It went down a treat the first day – studded with cloves and brown sugar, it was a dream way to start the New Year. Subsequent days brought a succession of ham leftovers to the table. At first everyone put on a brave face but by day 3 there was dissent within the ranks – threats of a kitchen coup d’etat and lots of eye rolling and mutterings.

CU

And the darnedest thing? I swear that puppy regenerated every night. I’d wrap the ham up, pop it up in the fridge and the next day I’d pull it out and it looked as big as when it first came out the oven. No matter how much we ate, there was always more. It started to feel like an Edgar Allan Poe story (The Tell Tale Ham?) or an episode from X-Files.

Finally, it was time to take drastic action. Knife in hand, I sliced and diced and made a massive pot of Chile Spiked Split Pea & Ham (natch) Soup. I made it with ham broth from when I first cooked Mr. Ham but water would do well too. The recipe is pretty standard – how can you improve on a classic? But never content to let well enough alone, I jazzed the soup up with some chile and then topped it with chile croutons. Croutons sound so classy when let’s be honest – it’s only fried bread. But fried bread is a good thing.

This make a healthy pot of soup – put the leftovers in plastic containers and pop in the freezer for a rainy/snowy day. Just don’t blame me if you find the containers breeding in your freezer. Ham has a way of doing that.

SOUPChile-Spiked Split Pea & Ham Soup

Makes 4-6 servings

Soup
1 medium onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Green jalapeno powder
2 cups green split peas, rinsed
5 cups ham stock or water or vegetable broth
1 medium carrot, diced (about a heaping ½ cup)
1 heaping cup chopped ham (already cooked)

Croutons
1 thick slice bread, cut into cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
Chile Molido (mild or hot)
Salt

Garnish
Extra virgin olive oil
Chile pequin

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In a large casserole or soup pot, sauté the onions in the olive oil over low heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the green jalapeno powder and stir to coat the onions and garlic. Add the green split peas and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are almost – but not completely cooked through. If the soup creates any scum, skim this off. Add the carrot and ham and continue cooking until the split peas are cooked through and soft but not mushy.

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While the soup is cooking, toss the bread cubes in a bowl with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of the chile molido and salt. Place on a baking tray and bake in a hot oven until crisped – about 5-10 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with some chile pequin and garnish with the chile crotons.

CU