I’m going to start this like a banal conversation. This weather we’re having is very confusing.
It’s summer, but it’s overcast and drippy and the sky is like dirty dishwater. Which we should be used to, but because we have images of beaches and ice lollies and patio seating in our heads we get depressed, and then we need comforting food, which is generally not summer food. It could just be me, but judging by the number of sausage sandwiches we’ve been making at Mill Kitchen, it isn’t. I think the sausage sandwich is the warm, floury, pat on the back of the food world. It’s homely, reassuring, not too little, not too much. My veg boxes are full of tomatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans, peaches, melons, the sort of food that wants to be eaten ripely with bare feet and cold wine. But all I’ve been wanting is shepherd’s pie.
Then it’s autumn, but it’s hot and airless, like living in a closed Kilner jar. We’ve been having meetings to plan the menu for the next few months, discussing broths and stewed fruit with the fan on its highest setting. Hey universe, what’s up?
I wanted to share a lunch I made the other day when in a state of complete uncertainty about what I felt like eating, not an easy place for me to be. Often what I feel like eating is the only thing I do know. So I started with some things I reliably like eating (and, conveniently, Frank does too): roasted sweet potato and melting goat’s cheese. While the potato was baking I made a quick kale salad which I stuffed in at the end with a round of cheese on top, then back in the oven until the cheese was starting to ooze. It’s not quick, but it is easy, and melted cheese, like sausages, will always be appropriate whatever the weather.
Baked goat’s cheese sweet potato
2 sweet potatoes
5-6 tbsp olive oil
2 handfuls of kale
2 tbsp dill
2 tbsp hazelnuts
2 tbsp dried blueberries
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 rounds of goat’s cheese, 1-2 cm thick
Set the oven at 200c. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, then rub them all over with a bit of the olive oil and a good sprinkle of sea salt, patting the salt on so it sticks. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size, or until you can stick a knife through the middle with no resistance.
Put the hazelnuts on a baking tray in the hot oven for 10 minutes or so, until golden. Pull the kale leaves off the stalks, wash and dry it and chop it roughly. Chop the dill finely. Mix the red wine vinegar with the remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt to make a dressing. When the hazelnuts are toasted, chop them roughly.
Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt over the kale leaves in a big bowl and pour the dressing over. Rub the dressing into the leaves, coating them thoroughly and bruising them a bit so they wilt. Mix in the chopped hazelnuts, dill and dried blueberries.
When the potatoes are cooked, slit them down the middle and pile in the salad. Wedge the circles of cheese on top and return them to the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.