Writing little stories and recipes here is just about my favourite thing to do in the world. They’re a record of life, gardening, travelling and of course cooking, and one day, you never know, my kids may read and appreciate them (I’ll probably print them out, bind them in a folder and put them under their noses the unimaginable day they move out of home) … I mean to do a recipe every month, but yeek, five months just slipped by. Partly it was because of a big editing job, but another reason is the mini cookbooks I’ve been making.
Winter, third in the series, is almost ready to pick up from the printer, yippee! Each book is an ode to its season – small (thirteen recipes) yet also rich and jam-packed with just about every favourite fruit and vegetable. A short list of the special dishes I feel absolutely compelled to cook when the ingredients are in season. It means I really can’t pick my favourite season – each one is beautiful.
Some of the recipes come from the archives here; some are new. There’s my usual mix of styles and cuisines – a few weeknight wonders (we all need those!) combined with dishes from Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and all over Asia. I keep my recipes fairly easy, while also striving for them to be interesting and never boring. Most of the dishes are vegetarian. I suppose my take on winter is a little different to the stews and pies and things you might expect. Instead I go for Japanese curry on a tangle of udon noodles, pan-fried silverbeet flatbreads, Hong Kong vegetable hot pot, chipotle potato tacos …
Nicole Stewart – ex-neighbour, good friend – has designed and illustrated the books and they’re a feast for the eyes (we both love colour!). They’re printed locally in Melbourne on recycled paper (show me another book these days printed in colour and not shipped from overseas).
How does sweet potato roti relate? Actually, it’s just something I’ve been making a long time, and is perfect in combo with one of the dishes in the Winter book: paneer makhani (also found here).
Sweet potato roti
I’m not sure if these breads – which have mashed sweet potato, cardamom and a spoon of brown sugar in the dough – come from some nook of the Subcontinent, or if they were the creation of authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Either way, I’ve loved them for years. They get brushed with melted butter as they come out of the pan, and the flavour combination of sweet potato, butter and cardamom is wonderful.
I could write a whole story about Alford and Duguid and their inspiring books … This recipe came from HomeBaking, which is sadly out of print (I know, because I’ve tried to replace my falling-apart, black-and-white advance copy dating from when I used to work at a publishing house).
This is how I make their breads, with enough cardamom to give a gentle but certain flavour. Serve the breads with paneer makhani, dhal or other Indian curries, or with tandoori-esque grills and salad. (I think you could even serve the breads with a scoop of ice cream for dessert.)
about 400 g sweet potato
225 g (1½ cups) wholemeal flour (or more as needed)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
15 cardamom pods, cracked, husks discarded, seeds ground
generous knob of butter
Peel the sweet potato, cut it into large chunks and boil until soft. Drain well, then tip into a wide bowl. Let the sweet potato steam and cool for 10 minutes or so, then mash well. Put the flour, sugar, salt and ground cardamom on top. Have more flour nearby if you need it. Mix the dry ingredients into the sweet potato with one hand. If the dough feels very wet and sticky, add more flour – about ¼ cup at a time – until you have a dough that is only lightly sticky. Knead for a minute or two, then divide into pieces the size of golf balls.
Melt the butter and place it near your stove. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. While it is heating, take the first piece of dough and roll it into a smooth ball in your hands. Place on a floured surface, flatten it with your fingers, and dust with flour all over. Use a rolling pin to roll it out, rotating and dusting with more flour as you go, until it is a very thin, round bread almost as wide as the base of a regular frying pan. Shake off excess flour and place in the heated pan without oil. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, or until speckled brown, then flip and cook on the second side (which usually cooks quicker). Transfer to a plate and brush the top with melted butter.
While one bread is cooking, you can roll out the next one so you can keep cooking the breads continuously. Stack each new bread on top of the last, brushing with butter.