Rituals. With the holidays coming up, I can’t help but think about them, the role they play in all of our lives, and how grateful I am for them.
Every month (or as often as our schedules allow) my little family and two others get together for brunch. It’s pretty much like a scene from Thirty Something (remember that show?!), babies crawling around under the table, toddlers walking into walls and disintegrating into fits of hysteria, but somewhere in between diaper changes and breastfeeding, the grown-ups feast. We always do this potluck style, that way the couple who is hosting doesn’t have to sacrifice their entire week planning and cooking for Sunday, because that is laughably unrealistic. And even though we never talk about what we’ll be bringing, the spread is always totally rad and over-the-top. And just what the adults need.
The first time we got together, I made this dish. It was about this time of year, and I felt like something savoury, spicy and just plain yum. Sweet potatoes, believe it or not, are kind of a special thing in Denmark (especially organic ones!) so upon finding a few at my local health food store I knew that they were destined for Jacob and Mille’s skillet with some eggs, and chilies and herbs. The dish was a hit, and so it has become kind of expected that aside from the other amazing things that turn up, that I bring the ingredients for this too, nearly every time. It’s a good “social” meal to make because most of the cooking time is largely unattended, allowing one to indulge in too many of Silla’s raw cake bites before even sitting down. It’s also fun to have this piping hot centerpiece on the table and let everyone just dive right in.
The dish opens with caramelized onions, so right off the bat, you know it’s gonna be good. Lots of cumin and coriander take things to best-buddy spice town, with chili flakes giving some heat and a good dose of sea salt to help those onions melt down. Honestly, you could just turn off the stove after the onions are caramelized and eat these on toast with poached eggs, they are that good. But wait! Sweet potatoes join the party, and cilantro and whatever else you think you’d like to nosh on. It’s great with avocado, lime, some sprouted corn tortillas, hot sauce…you see where I’m going with this.
Although it’s a fabulous thing to serve at a brunch, this hash also makes a pretty delicious weeknight dinner. If you want to make a vegan version, simply leave out the eggs – it’s wonderful this way too. I’ve seen other kinds of sweet potato hash, but for some reason the recipes always suggests roasting or boiling the sweet potatoes first, then putting them in the skillet and then cooking more? Too much work, I say! This recipe is all on the stove, one pan, no fuss, just tasties.
Lessons in Lecithin
Have you heard of lecithin before? My guess it, probably not.
Well, I bet if you were to go into your fridge or pantry right now, you could find at least one packaged food that contains this stuff, especially if you’ve got some ice cream lurking around, yoghurt, cheese, margarine, even bread or granola bars.
But what the heck is this stuff? Lecithin is a nutrient produced by the liver, and is found in both whole and processed foods. Its function in the body is to emulsify fats, and enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A. The big reason for consuming lecithin however is the fact that nearly 1/3 of your brain is made of the stuff. Did you get that?! 30% of your brain’s dry matter is lecithin. Seriously. You can imagine then, that lecithin is rather vital to proper brain function, increasing mental activity and enhancing memory. Lecithin also exhibits a calming effect and can be helpful in reducing hyperactivity. What’s more, lecithin protect against gallstone formation, high blood pressure, and cholesterol excesses.
Whole food sources of lecithin include egg yolks, rice bran and soybeans. Processed foods often contain soy lecithin (does that ring a bell?) to ensure that the fats and water-based substances do not separate, and to make the food creamier. It is added to baked goods to prevent the dough from sticking and to improve its ability to rise. Because soy is a very inexpensive and widely cultivated crop, it makes sense to use its byproduct in food processing (soy lecithin comes from the production of soy oil).
The lecithin found in eggs is of high quality and should be eaten with enthusiasm, not fear! Does this mean that egg white omelets are a thing of the past? In my opinion, yes. So much of the good stuff is contained in that gorgeous yolk, but here’s the kicker: you have to keep those bad boys runny. Lecithin is a very delicate nutrient and is destroyed with heat. You know that when the yolks are hard, as in very cooked scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs, you’ve gone too far and the lecithin is no longer viable. Poaching, soft boiling, and steaming are therefore your best choices for preserving the many health benefits of that precious lecithin.
Sweet Potato Skillet Hash
1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
2 tsp. whole cumin seeds (1 tsp. ground cumin)
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds (1 tsp. ground coriander)
½ tsp. chili flakes, plus more for garnish
a few generous pinches sea salt
2 medium onions (I like using red onions for this)
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound / 500g), scrubbed and cut into cubes
½ cup – ¾ cup / 125ml – 175ml water or vegetable broth
organic, free-run eggs, as many as you’d like
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
bread or tortillas
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Crush the cumin and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (the bottom of a drinking glass will work in a pinch!). In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, melt the oil over medium heat. Add the spices, including the chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add the onions, a few pinches of salt, and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they have caramelized, about 20-30 minutes.
3. Add the sweet potatoes and toss to mix with the onions and spices. Add about ½ cup / 125ml water or broth, cover skillet with a lid and let cook undisturbed for 15 minutes, this will allow the sweet potatoes to steam. If the potatoes are not cooked through, put the lid back on and cook for another five minutes or so, adding more water if necessary. If there is water in the pan remaining, simply remove the lid and allow it steam off.
4. To cook the eggs, make a few divots in the hash and crack eggs into them. Put the lid back on and allow the eggs to cook for about 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, you can put the whole thing, without the lid, under the broiler. What you’re after is eggs whose whites have set, but yolks are runny.
5. Just before eating, sprinkle the top with chopped cilantro and some extra chili flakes. Serve with avocado and lime wedges on the side, and crusty bread or tortillas. Allow each person to scoop out their own portion and eggs. Enjoy hot.
What rituals mean a lot to you? What ceremonial events see you through the year? With American Thanksgiving in just a couple days, I’d hope that many of you will be gathered around a table celebrating your own special times with people who you care about. As a Canadian living in Denmark, I’ll be celebrating the glorious in the every day, and looking forward to the next brunch.
Happy holidays. All love and light,