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FOOD Creative sweet potato and chicory dishes

Get creative with food this winter

Food and wine
Redmond Cabot

Dear friends, after the drowning we got in November you could be forgiven for thinking this is a dead season in terms of produce – not at all!
Instead of succumbing to a dreary winter attitude take heart in the fact that this is precisely the time to shake that bootie and expand some of your horizons with some imaginative cooking.
Here are two simple but creative dishes to try in your kitchen to add a little life to the monotony of winter life.

Sweet potato gratin
Everybody knows and loves potatoes. Expand your experience and try those pink-coloured sweet potatoes. Enjoying food is all about having a bit of fun, and sweet potatoes produce a deliciously coloured dish with a sweeter tinge than your normal potato variations. A tough of chilli adds the final madness to this exciting dish.

Peel two or three sweet potatoes and cut into slices the thickness of the old 50p coin and place in a mixing bowl.
Add three thinly chopped garlic cloves
Lash in a tablespoon of oil and one hot red pepper finely chopped.
Place in an oven dish and season with salt and pepper
Pour in quarter-litre of cream and bake in a preheated oven (180°c) for 40-50 minutes.
Finish off under the  grill (cheese addicts can have their say now!).

Caramelised chicory
This fascinating vegetable is not regularly used, although some of the best restaurants and chefs use this textured leaf. I mean, you can see recipes like pot-roasted quail with nettles and chicory, or grilled scallops with mustard hollandaise and char grilled chicory, but let’s keep it simple for starters.
Chicory sometimes comes with a hint of sourness, and I think people avoid it because they are unfamiliar with it. It grows successfully locally and is hardy in Irish winter, so should be well suited to local cuisine. It’s a fabulous accompaniment to white fish dishes, as well as roasted fowl. For starters, try this dish of caramelised chicory, which will counteract any first-time tartness.

Rub half an ounce butter around an oven dish
Add one head of chicory per person, split halfway, and squeeze half an orange over the lot.
Drizzle with two teaspoons of honey, and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a preheated (180°c) oven without a cover and cook for an hour, turning and basting every 15 minutes.

So there you have it – some simple recipes to chase away the dreariness of winter. That’s it! We’ve turned the corner, no more bad news! And it all starts at home with the small things to add a dash or two of colour to our world, all with basic ingredients close at hand that we often overlook. Onwards and upwards!

Some wine with that?
Winter is all about bigger, warming reds. Try this well made Languedoc: Mas de Martin (€13.99, available at Cabot’s, 098 50546).