One of my new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to cook a new recipe from a cook book every week. I own so many cook books with beautiful recipes, yet I generally cook the same thing each week, or use the Internet as a source of new recipes. I purchased the Deliciously Ella cookbook in January 2016, which is absolutely gorgeous and full of beautiful and wholesome vegetarian recipes. However, I knew I had to be disciplined with myself in order to ensure I actually used it and sourced recipes from it. Hence the resolution.
My resolution started off well – Rob and I cooked a recipe a week, from the Deliciously Ella book, and then we allowed ourselves to introduce Angela Liddon’s ‘Oh She Glows’ recipe book and the Revive Cafe cookbooks (my Mom purchased me their 2nd and 4th cookbooks…they have so many beautiful yet simple vegetarian recipes I have never tried!). I often struggle to follow recipes – I use them as a base but amend them based on my tastes and what I think will make the recipe better – but I was stringent and followed the recipe line by line, only adding things at the very very end if we thought necessary. We made some amazing dishes, but soon enough work and life took over, meaning that we forgot about our resolution and went back to our old ways.
However, we were invited to a pot luck dinner last week, and I knew this was a wonderful opportunity to cook directly from a recipe again. After much umming and ahhing, knowing I was cooking for my gym friends, so people who look after their health and care about eating well, including another vegetarian and two people on a paleo diet, I decided on a miso sweet potato and broccoli recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It sounded perfect for a pot luck – easy to transport and put together when I arrived, easy to heat up if necessary, and quick and easy to do the night before after a 13 hour day in the office. It was also vegan (well my adapted version is) and I enjoy showing off how delicious vegan food can be. I also personally love sweet potato (in New Zealand, they call it orange kumara) and believe it is a wonderful natural source of carbohydrates. It is also a warm, wholesome and comforting vegetable. The smell of sweet potato takes me back to Christmas and Thanksgiving, when I make a tasty but naughty sweet potato casserole, topped with marshmallows, pecans and brown sugar, roasted until crunchy. YUM. However, I didn’t think that was quite appropriate for this pot luck, and it was also the wrong time of year. So this sweet potato and broccoli bowl had high standards to live up to – I was expecting big things.
And wow it blew me away. I altered the recipe slightly by doubling the amount of garlic in the sauce, by using agave instead of honey (to make it vegan), and by adding some water to thin it out a bit (given I was making a very large amount and wanted to ensure everyone got enough miso dressing!). While the recipe calls for using a blender, I actually put all the ingredients in a bowl and used a fork to mix it – it took a few minutes but it mixed together nicely – no need for a blender at all!! I also added some organic black beans to add protein, and I did a mixture of brown and black forbidden rice. I also accidentally forgot about the rice, leaving it to cook about 10 or so minutes longer than it should have (I grew up with a rice cooker, so cooking rice on a stove is still slightly novel for me – and I forget the fact that once the water is all absorbed, you actually need to turn it off – first world problems!). LUCKILY it didn’t burn, or set alight. The overcooking of the rice meant that it was slightly dried out and crispy, adding a beautiful texture and contrast to the sweet potato and broccoli. I couldn’t have planned it any better!
Like Smitten Kitchen says, there is no reason you couldn’t use other vegetables, though I love the mixture of the sweet potato and the broccoli. It would be nice with some thinly chopped and grilled aubergine/eggplant. And I would love to try it with some quinoa in the future for a different texture, and some additional protein. The miso dressing though is delightful, and could easily be used for an Asian themed salad or noodles. No doubt I will be making it again and posting future recipes with a very similar miso dressing to it.
Sweet potato, broccoli and black bean bowl warm salad with miso dressing
Serves 4 to 6 (4 for a main meal, 6 as a side)
For the bowl
1 cup dried rice or another cooking grain of your choice (I used a mix of brown and black)
1 to 2 large sweet potatoes, or 4 to 5 small to medium ones (about 700 grams/1.5 pounds)
1 large broccoli (about 3 cups once chopped into florets)
1 tin of black beans (I used a 400g tin of Ceres Organic black beans)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
For the miso-sesame dressing
1 tablespoon finely chopped/minced fresh ginger
3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped/minced
2 tablespoons white miso (the mildest kind)
2 tablespoons tahini (add one tablespoon and then see how it tastes)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
Method: Vegetables and rice
Heat oven to 200 degrees Celcius (400 Fahrenheit). Cook the rice according to package directions – I use a ratio of 2 to 1 cups for brown/black rice – and I cooked it approximately 10 minutes longer than it should have been, to get it nice and crunchy.
Cut the sweet potato into 2cm (3/4-inch) cubes (the original recipe says to peel them too, but I like sweet potato with the skins on – just make sure you wash them and cut out any spots or bad looking bits). Cut the tops off the broccoli and separate into bite-sized florets (I found that I liked the florets bigger, to add a difference in size when compared to the sweet potato). I often like to use the stems and the bottom of the broccoli as well – peeled and cut into segments about 1 inch long.
Coat one large or two smaller trays with a thin slick of olive oil. Layer sweet potatoes on tray(s) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until browning underneath. Flip and toss chunks around, then add broccoli to the tray(s), season again with salt and pepper, and roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, until broccoli is lightly charred at edges and sweet potato is fully bronzed and tender. Toss chunks around one more time if it looks like they’re cooking unevenly.
In a small skillet, toast black and white sesame seeds until fragrant. (You can do this in the oven if using an oven-proof skillet.) Let cool.
While vegetables roast, prepare sesame-miso dressing:
Add the dressing ingredients to a bowl (alternatively, combine everything in a blender and run until smooth, scraping down sides once). If making it in a bowl, use a whisk or a fork and mix it until it all blended and smooth. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed, but try to resist adding more honey or agave if it tastes salty, as that extra pop of saltiness is exactly what sweet potato needs.
Prepare the black beans:
Drain the black beans and rinse them under the water. If you are serving the bowl warm, heat the black beans up on the stove or in the microwave.
As I was making one large dish for everyone to share, I put each ingredient on as layers, similar to making a lasagne – rice sprinkled on the bottom, topped with the vegetables and then black beans, and again another layer of each. I then topped it with the sesame-miso dressing and finished with sesame seeds.
If you are doing individual bowls, you want to scoop some rice/grains into each, then pile on the roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli and the black beans. Coat lightly with sesame-miso dressing and finish with toasted sesame seed duo. Serve with extra dressing on the side.
It was an absolute hit at the potluck. Meat eaters and vegetarians alike, even those sneaky paleos who don’t eat legumes, were taking part. The plate was clean by the end, and I was lucky to get a photo before everyone dived in! It is on the top of my list for future dinners, and because I was in a rush making it, I didn’t take too many photos of the process – next time I definitely will. 10 out of 10!