19 December, 2007

Flavour combo

My sage plant was looking a little stretched, a little dry towards the roots and definitely in need of a trim. What to use the trimmed leaves for? A risotto recipe happily cropped up that also gave me the opportunity of using up some sweet potato that had been loitering in the crisper.

Sweet potato is a favourite veg of mine. It's filling and versatile like potato, but has two great advantages over its cousin: it's quicker to cook and has a sweetness that lifts a savoury dish.

For the risotto I lavishly poured olive oil into the pan (we don't want the rice drying out!) along with some butter, and fried up an onion. Arborio rice was next, with plenty of stirring to make sure it was coated by the oil. Next, mushrooms and sweet pot. I'd held back on the mushrooms so they didn't soak up all the butter before the rice was added. Sweet pot's first advantage came to the fore here: it could just be added for a quick fry and then boil up as the stock was being ladled in, rather than having to be cooked separately. Pre-prepared, homemade stock was added regularly, along with a splash of verjuice (in the absence of any open white wine). When the stock was exhausted I added a good handful of torn sage leaves. For serving, I sprinkled chopped bacon, fried to crispiness, over the top, along with a couple of whole sage leaves.
How does one describe the taste of sage? It's a sweet herb; its furry leaves make me think of a peach and its that kind of sweetness it exhibits: sweet like a peach, rather than an apple or a mango. It has quite a heady, perfumed smell as well, that rises from the food. So in this dish, the heady sage marries with the starchy sweet potato and the two are countered and lifted by the salty bacon. Delish!

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