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Mashed potato cakes

In the language of allotmenteers, there’s a term for this stretch from January until April, when some of the earliest proper crops start coming in, it’s called the hungry gap. When you get a vegetable delivery box, around this time of year it feels like it’s 60% leeks by weight.

What am I going to do with a logpile of leeks? The thing is, Christopher doesn’t eat eggs, so a quiche or frittata is out. Leek and potato soup is a bit much more than once in a fortnight, I think. Fortunately they also go well with potatoes.

I knocked together these little potato cakes from leftover mashed potato, with peas and leeks I fried up for the occasion. The quantities are a bit vague because this is really something to be made with leftovers, so do with it what you will. My very favourite way to eat these is with a fried egg lolling around on top and a generous sprinkling of good crunchy sea salt.

Leftover mash potato cakes 

  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 leek
  • Knob of butter
  • A quantity of leftover mashed potato
  • Frozen, or leftover cooked peas
  • All-purpose flour
  • Olive oil or butter
  1. Tip panko into a dry non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Stirring often, toast the panko until it is golden brown. Remove to a plate to cool.
  2. Slice the leek into narrow rings, going all the way up including the light green bit, discard the tough dark green tops. Heat a pan on medium heat, add the knob of butter, and then toss in the leeks once the butter has melted. Cook until leeks are soft, stirring occasionally. Cook the peas according to package directions if they are frozen.
  3. Add the mashed potatoes, peas, and leeks into a medium bowl, scraping the leek pan to get all that lovely butter in there. Start with 2 tablespoons of flour and mix. You want to get to a texture that starts sticking to itself. Try making a small cake the size of your palm, if it falls to pieces, add a bit more flour a tablespoon at a time.
  4. When you’ve got the right consistency, make small patties and press them gently into the panko on both sides to coat. I make a few and put them on a clean plate next to the stove.
  5. Heat up the leek pan again over medium heat, and add a small amount of your fat of choice. Add a few of your patties at a time, without crowding the pan. Leave them undisturbed for a couple of minutes, but monitor them closely. At the first sign of overbrowning, flip them like mad. You’re really just heating the potatoes through here, so no need to rush it over high heat.
  6. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a low oven or under foil until you cook the lot of them.
  7. Serve warm with eggs, or bacon, or good sausages. Yum.

Beetroot brownie cupcakes

A few things came together in a kind of culinary planetary alignment to bring me to the constant chocolate beetroot cupcake assembly line my kitchen has become.

For the last month I’ve been receiving bags of beetroot in my Spud veg box. I like them, but I could never eat them all before they went bad. I’ve had variations on the beetroot* chocolate baked thing a few times, but mostly in cakes or loaves. Finally, Elliot has been on a sleep training plan which required a reward every morning when he slept in his bed all night. I wanted something that would be a treat, but not too overwhelmingly dessert, and incorporated some kind of vegetable.

Which is how I ended up making, no exaggeration, 10 consecutive batches of these cupcakes. Of course I tweaked as I went. Some batches I cut too much sugar and it tasted too botanical, and others I subbed out too much of the oil so they were a bit dry and went stale quickly. I think I have the perfect ratio now. You want to read through this whole recipe before starting, as it requires cooking the beetroot first – I often do this the day before whilst I’m making dinner or something. I sometimes keep and freeze the beetroot water to use as a natural food colouring. Finally, I get 18 cupcakes out of this, but my muffin tin is on the small side, so don’t fret if you only manage 12.

Beetroot brownie cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
Adapted from this Jill Dupleix Saturday Kitchen recipe 

  • 250g beetroot, about three small ones or two large ones
  • 75g dutch process cocoa powder
  • 110g wholewheat flour
  • 70g all-purpose flour
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 50ml applesauce
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add beetroot. No need to top and tail them.
  2. Boil until a knife poked into one of the beetroot slides in with no resistance to the centre. Remove with a slotted spoon to a cutting board. Top and tail each beetroot, then slice in half. Scrape skins off with the side of a knife, and then roughly cube. You will be puréeing these, so don’t get too perfectionist here.
  3. Preheat your oven to 355ºF/180ºC, place a rack in the middle of oven. Line a muffin tin with paper cups (I have tried greasing the tin only – these little guys are brutal to get out in one piece, don’t bother and just use paper cups).
  4. In a large bowl, sift your cocoa, flours and sugar. Set aside.
  5. Tip the beetroot into a food processor or blender (I can just about do this with my mini chopper, if I hold the lid down tight – there are a few more ingredients to go in, so I would measure the total volume before you try it!), and blend until beetroot is just about puréed. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a few pulses in between to thoroughly mix. Finally, add oil, applesauce and vanilla and give it a good whirl until everything is combined. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure you get everything.
  6. Tip your beetroot mix into the dry ingredients, and fold with a spatula until just combined.
  7. Pour into your prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

*I say beetroot throughout, which is the British way of referring to a beet. They are one and the same. I didn’t really start eating beetroot until I moved over there, so to me they will always be beetroot.