Baked ricotta and sweet potato salad

 
This is so delicious that I started eating it and then remembered I hadn’t photographed it which is why it’s half eaten. But it looks very good when first assembled and will appeal to those who like prettiness on a plate.
 
 
If I had tons of money, one of the things I’d do is hire a chef. Someone to make wonderful little delicate salads for me. I love salads. I’m not talking limp lettuce with enough vinegar to make your hair shine, I’m talking big, blousey salads with lotsa things in them.
 
The problem is I don’t always feel like making them. Since my first pregnancy, sometimes preparing a salad can make me feel a bit sick. I have to do it before hunger makes me stupid, so a bit of pre-planning is required.
 
I’m hugely fortunate, but utterly deserving, because my partner is a fantastic cook, and I can sometimes boss him into making me a delicious salad, giving him the above reason/excuse and it seems to work. Despite me telling you all this, I’ve got quite a salad repertoire and this is one of them. It’s from Peter Gordon’s Salads. I think Gordon (The Sugar Club, The Providores) is hugely underrated by the at-home cook. I love Salads – published in 2005 – because Gordon proves that a proper salad can be a meal in its own right, not just an add-on to lessen the guilt.
 
The recipe below can withstand a lot of tweaking, so if as you make it you think “I can’t possibly eat this much spinach” then don’t put so much in. I found 400g waaaaay too much and only used about 150g. Don’t know if it’s a typo but see how you get on. I’ve reproduced the recipe here the way he printed it however.
 
Here’s what you need for four worthy people:
 
400g ricotta
half a teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
quarter of a spoon of cumin seeds – leave them as they are no need to crush
quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
600g sweet potatoes, Gordon says to scrub their skins, I peeled mine cos I didn’t read that bit
4 tablespoons of hot water
300g grapes off the stems. He doesn’t specify which, I used red seedless. You’d be insane to use seeded ones unless you want your guests to be spitting all over lunch.
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (I got mine from a food market)
3 table spoons of grapeseed oil (I used a mixture of olive and rapeseed)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 handfuls of olives, stoned and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of baby capers, rinsed
12 mint leaves, shredded
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
400g baby spinach (see above)
 
First you preheat the oven to 180. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and then slice the ricotta into 2cm pieces. Don’t worry if it crumbles a bit. I sliced mine whilst still  in its little round container, and then lifted it out, and it worked fine. Mix the paprika, cumin and cinnamon together with a teaspoon of the olive oil and brush this on the cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt and cook for 15 mins. Take out and leave to one side to cool.
 
Turn the oven up to 200C.
You’re now going to cook the sweet potatoes and grapes together, so pick two containers that will fit side by side. If you don’t have, don’t fret. This salad is served at room temperature so you can just cook one at a time. I’d probably do the grapes first.
 
So, cut the sweet pots into thin wedges and place in a small roasting tin. Pour in the hot water, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. I know it sounds mad but just do it. Bake until just cooked – about 20 mins.
 
Place the grapes in a non-reactive dish and pour on the pomegranate molasses, grapeseed/other oil you’re using and soy sauce. Bake for 20 mins. Remove when done and leave to cool.
 
Once everything is at room temperature, pour the juice from the cooked grapes into a bowl and mix in the olives, capers, mint and chives to form the dressing.
 
To serve, toss the spinach with half the dressing and place on four plates. Scatter the sweet potato wedges on top, then flake the ricotta on top of that. Scatter over the grapes then pour the rest of the dressing over the top.
 
Eat. You will enjoy it.   

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