Ok kids, hold onto your tummies and get ready for something exciting to hit your plate in great, greedy, overflowing spoonfuls because I’m gonna level with you here – this is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever made. I could literally eat it every day and not get sick of it and I’m so excited to share it with you because holy sauteed kale Batman, you are going to love it every bit as much as I do and you may even find yourself saying a little prayer of thanks that you took five minutes to read this post and expand your dinner repertoire.
The flavours are delicious – a completely addictive combination of sweet and savoury with balsamic tang nestling side by side with mustard heat and a gorgeous partnership of soft, sticky, caramelised sweet potato with earthy kale and nutty wild rice.
It’s simple. It’s quick. It’s flavourful and although you could easily serve it as a side to a beautiful piece of plump salmon or a protein packed grilled chicken breast, J and I have unashamedly taken the obsession to the level of eating whole platefuls of it as dinner…even as I write this, he’s sat beside me making yummy noises that are both endearing & understandable…
The original version can be found here http://iowagirleats.com/2014/10/15/caramelized-sweet-potato-kale-fried-wild-rice and – as long as you use vegetable instead of the prescribed chicken stock – is a fantastic dish to whip up when vegetarian friends come-a-calling or when you simply fancy a meat free day but it’s equally, ridiculously tasty when you add diced chorizo to it and allow the flavours of that elegant, paprika scented, amber oil to mingle with the other ingredients.
Iowa Girl Eats has become one of my favourite food blogs and every time an email from founder and all-round-creator-of-deliciousness Kristin Porter drops into my inbox, I let out an involuntary squeak of excitement and frankly, drop everything to see what’s cooking on that particular day but there’s no doubt this has been my favourite post of hers so far.
J and I have tweaked it either with the afore-mentioned generous addition of smoky, spicy chorizo or by throwing a handful of finely sliced spring onions in at the beginning with the potato or a fistful of sunflower seeds in at the end and we always saute the kale instead of boiling it simply because that’s our preference for the texture of the leaf but as I’ve said before and will no doubt re-iterate again, that’s the whole point and beauty of people sharing recipes – you use the bits that work for you and adapt the things you’re less keen on; this is how recipes and trends evolve and spread and stay alive and it’s one of the ultimate joys of cooking.
So what do you need in order to experience this tummy-rubbing-in-pleasure dinner for yourself? A few things you may have in your cupboard already, coupled with ingredients easily found in your local supermarket…butter, brown sugar and stock cubes plus sweet potatoes, kale, wild rice and pumpkin seeds.
Remove any hard, woody stems from the kale – I find Tesco do the best value bags of this vibrant leaf with far fewer stalks to get rid of than some of their competitors – and keep that to one side while getting your rice on to cook in the stock. We’ve used chicken and vegetable and I can’t say that one made more of a noticeable difference than the other – deciding which one to use on the day tends to fall into the technically challenging method known as ‘reaching in and seeing what I have on the shelf’. Let me know if you have difficulty keeping up with instructions of that complexity and detail won’t you…?!
Melt your butter in the pan – we use a wok as the nice high sides keep the heat bouncing back and forth over the food better than a flatter, more open frying pan – then add the cubed sweet potato and sprinkle the sugar over the top. You want to keep your cubes fairly small so that they cook evenly and without the need to stand and labour at the stove for hours. I personally don’t add salt here – I know you’re supposed to season always but honestly for our own tastes, we’ve found it’s not needed. You know how you like your food to taste though so go ahead and season as you will. The potatoes won’t take long but keep an eye on them, stirring regularly so as to keep a burnished caramel colour and texture all over that never descends into something that can’t be dressed up as anything other than burnt.
Once the potatoes are done – a gently spearing with a sharp knife will tell you if they’re ready – we add the kale and saute it for around 5 or 6 minutes until the sometimes toughness of the leaves is subdued a little and they’ve transformed from a bright green to a darker emerald shade.
Drain your rice and add that plus the seeds to the pan, mixing well until everything is combined in glorious swirls of colour and texture. Feel free to use whatever type of rice you prefer but the consistency of wild adds a nice difference to the other components of your plate. I fear white would be somewhat ‘gluggy’ and even my old larder stalwart of bulgar wheat might be a bit soft so wild rice has been our bet each time and the results have been pretty damn awesome.
So now you’ve assembled the foundations of this meal, we come to that which holds it all together – the dressing.
If your kitchen resembles something off Pinterest and you have dozens of glass mason jars stored away, you’ll need one now.
If however, your kitchen resembles mine and you have dozens of plastic Tupperware & jugs rammed, wedges and stacked away in your cupboards, go ahead and grab one of those and a fork.
Into the vessel of your choice you’ll be adding olive oil (Iowa Girl likes extra virgin but we’ve used regular light olive oil without complaint), balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, minced garlic, salt, pepper and mustard. We’ve used wholegrain mustard each time we’ve made this rather than the called for Dijon but as with the stock cubes, that’s been more about what’s in the kitchen than any particular culinary foible although I do prefer the texture of wholegrain.
Give this mixture a good whipping with the fork and drench it over the contents of your pan – don’t worry if it seems like there needs to be more because the flavours are full and strong and a good stirring of everything now will ensure each piece of potato, kale or rice is spread with the flavours of this luscious dressing.
J and I like to eat this out of heavy, white, square pasta bowls which beautifully show off the colours of the food in all their shiny-with-dressing glory and allow for a decent serving to be piled high, seeds tumbling down onto strands of curly kale and grains of dark and light rice. Poppadoms make a perfect accompaniment – lighter than bread and guilt-free & crispy, they’re perfect for breaking, sharing and scooping the dish into heaping mouthfuls although forks will be needed to ensure you don’t lose a single delectable piece.
I can’t make this dish for you – although I really wish I could because a) it gives me great pleasure to see someone enjoy food as much as I know you would enjoy this and b) I’d have to sit and eat it with you so as not be rude – so all I can do is urge you to give it a go; worry not that it’s meat free or that you may never have eaten kale before and that you can’t imagine what maple syrup and mustard might taste like together…I swear on the stack of brown sugar sprinkled, sweet potato cubes I have ready to throw in the hot, butter-slick wok that you will love it…and love me a little more for telling you about it.