For someone who dearly loves cooking, I sure do feel a bit rusty right now around a kitchen. Spending very little time at home over the past couple of months hasn’t helped, but there have been some worthy causes that have kept from my cucina; pre-Christmas festivities and that little trip to Italy included. Boring, but true, pre-holiday work at Publishing House X had meant waaay too many tuna sandwiches (‘cat food’ lunches) and quick after-work dinners in that all too ironic and familiar bid to prevent ensuing piles of work before taking a rightful holiday, which inevitably leads to a greater pile of work on the return. Sigh. And now, finally, I have resurfaced from the three-week taste of another life in the delightful northern Italian winter and then the harsh thud of the return to the land of endless green partitions and far too many emails, and taken a long, hard look inside my fridge. Tonight, I discovered the following sad contents: pickled herring from IKEA, a plastic container with used oil for deep-frying, too many condiments that have squatted in said fridge for an embarrassingly long time, some droopy pock-marked carrots, pitta bread, a half-eaten mango, leftover mashed sweet potato and half-full bottles of wine. Some was binned. Very few items were deemed safe enough to remain in their homes. I refused to go to the supermarket once again to pick up something that would thread the sad ingredients together into a somewhat cohesive meal of substance. The dinner challenge of strange ingredients was mine. And the pickled herring was going down.
I large sweet potato
2 Dutch Cream potatoes (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6–8 pieces pickled herring (mine was of the dill-flavoured variety)
handful cherry or mini-Roma tomatoes
handful fresh parsley, chopped
mixed salad leaves, about two good handfuls
red wine vinegar
As I already had leftover sweet potato mash, which had become nice and solid and super tasty in the fridge overnight, it formed into patties quite nicely. I made the mash by boiling peeled chunks of sweet potato and Dutch cream potatoes until soft. (The Dutch cream potatoes are purely optional … these were the lonely remnants of my normally stocked onion and potato basket and had to be used.) These were then crudely mashed with about three tablespoons of oil (enough to get the desired consistency), a little butter for creaminess, a good teaspoon or two of cumin and salt and pepper to taste. I added about two teaspoons of salt. If mashing up sweet potatoes immediately before forming into patties, please allow the mash to cool first otherwise the patties will completely fall apart.
Form your sweet potato mash into four largish patties (this meal should serve two as a light dinner) and fry in a hot and lightly oiled char-grilling pan. About 2 to 3 minutes on either side should do it, or when the patties are slightly char grilled and hot.
Create your herring salad by cutting the herring pieces into lovely delicate strips, as they can be a tad intimidating for some, and adding them to a bowl. Cut the bambini tomatoes into quarters. I used delicious little Perino tomatoes. Add the chopped parsley and salad leaves. Drizzle a little olive oil and red wine vinegar, more of the former and less of the latter, over the top. Season to taste and toss together with your fingertips, then serve with the warm patties e mangiare!