Sweet potato is a great winter ingredient – all that sugar and gorgeous colour make for a really uplifting meal. The tuber is so packed with sweetness that cooking it in this way will make the edges catch and caramelise in the butter, leaving each soft little cube with a coating that’s halfway between chewy and crisp. Alongside the salty halloumi, this mixture of textures and flavours is a real winner.
This dish makes a really tasty main course for vegetarians. I also like it as a side dish with some good sausages. The magic in this is all in the spicing – it’s worth taking the time to set to the spices with a mortar and pestle until they’re really well blended (you can also use a coffee grinder) – whatever method you choose, make sure that the anise and cloves in particular are well-pulverised, because neither ingredient is good to bite down on in large chunks. You’ll end up making more spice mixture than you need, but I view this as a time-saver; just pack the extra mixture into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. Next time you come to cook this dish, you can use the mixture directly from the freezer.
To serve four as a side dish or two as a main course, you’ll need:
1 sweet potato
1 block halloumi
1 large shallot
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon flaked chillies
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 ‘petal’ star anise
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Take the cumin, fennel seeds, chillies, cinnamon, onion salt, anise and cloves, and grind them thoroughly in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into large dice, about the size of the top joint of your thumb. Sprinkle two teaspoons of the spice mixture over the sweet potato pieces and toss well until they are coated. Cut the halloumi into dice the same size as the sweet potato pieces and dice the shallot finely.
Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat (make sure you use a non-stick pan or this dish will stick like glue) until it starts to foam, and tip in the spiced sweet potato. Sauté gently, turning the pieces every few minutes, until the sweet potato is soft all the way through (about 20 minutes).
Turn the heat up a notch and add the shallots and a crushed clove of garlic to the pan. Stir well to distribute the shallots and garlic around the pan, then add the halloumi, making sure that all the halloumi pieces are in contact with the bottom of your pan. Cook for another five minutes without stirring, turn the halloumi pieces and continue to sauté for another five minutes. The shallots should be brown and a little gummy, and the halloumi should be seared a golden colour where it’s been in contact with the pan.
Turn out into a heated serving dish and garnish with parsley.