Double Potato and Halloumi Bake
I first made this for a piece I was writing for Vogue on the mood-enhancing properties of carbohydrates, as promoted by such books as—and how’s this for a title?—Potatoes not Prozac. The fact that shortly after filing the article I went on a low-carbohydrate diet should not worry us too much here, for I should say that no one has eaten this without being mad for it. It’s a simple idea, and as simple to execute. What’s more, there’s a balance between the components—bland and sweet potatoes, almost-caramelized onion and garlic, more juicy sweetness with the peppers and then the uncompromising plain saltiness of the halloumi (which is mint-flavored sheep’s-milk cheese sold mainly in Turkish, Greek or specialty markets)—that seems to add to the eater’s equilibrium in turn. You could substitute feta, or do without the cheese altogether if you wanted to serve this as a side dish to roast chicken, say, but in which case be generous with the sea salt once the disk comes out of the oven. And forgetting about pseudo-scientific and other optimistic theories for a while, this is so upliftingly beautiful to look at: real good-mood colors.
Ovenproof 2-quart casserole
Total Timeunder 2 hours
One Pot MealYes
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course, side dish, starch
Dietary Considerationpeanut free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Taste and Texturecheesy, savory
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 large red/firm potato
- 1 red onion
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 red pepper
- ½ head of garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- black pepper
- 4½ ounces halloumi cheese, sliced as thinly as you can
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the sweet potato into rough 1½-inch cubes and the red potato slightly smaller (1-inch cubes) as the sweet potato will cook more quickly. Halve the red onion, then cut each half into 4–6 segments, discarding any tough outer skin. Seed the peppers and cut into 1-inch squares, and separate the cloves of garlic. Put everything into a casserole or whatever you want to use (it should be big, otherwise use two dishes) and, using your hands, give the vegetables a good coating of olive oil. Season with black pepper, but no salt as the cheese will make it salty (and anyway, the salt will make water leach out). Cook for 45 minutes, by which time the vegetables should be cooked through and here and there tinged with brown. You’ll need to turn the oven up to maximum or light the broiler for the endgame: so place the thinly sliced cheese on top of the bake, and put it back in the very hot oven or under the broiler until the cheese has melted and turned slightly brown on top, about 5–10 minutes. Serve straight out of the roasting pan.
2002 Nigella Lawson