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Learning to Cook…Salmon and Sweet Potatoes

salmon-freshLearning how to cook, Step Two. Develop an exaggerated sense of your own culinary skills, based on only one successful soup, and attempt to make meringues with chocolate chips and almond (oh so theoretically good…). Fail miserably. Fail like you haven’t failed since that school biology test when the, to put it mildly, deviation of your answers from accepted scientific knowledge almost made you, in a bid to save face, become a creationist.

Step Three. Try again and fail better. This week I thought I’d branch out from Mr Oliver and use a recipe a good friend told me was “fool-proof, even for you”: Salmon in Parma Ham with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. And she was right.

The first time I cooked it I’d just come in from the pub and there were some…timing issues…but the second time was grand, pretty easy even. This recipe is for 4 people.

The first thing you do is preheat your oven to 180 degrees/160 fan/gas mark 4. I did this, for the first time, without asking my housemate how to turn the oven on, applause please. Then you chop up 2 sweet potatoes into 2cm pieces. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some Excalibur moments with the sweet potatoes; I will not, it seems, ever be king of pre-Christian Britain, which is a good thing for a lot of reasons. I’d also be lying if I said I had a clue what a 2cm piece looks like. I just chopped ’em up into small and, as I got bored, gradually less small pieces. This meant that they cooked unevenly but I have made my peace with that.

Then you toss these in a roasting tin with a tablespoon of chopped up sage (a difficult herb for me to find what with my night grocery-shopping ways but not essential to the recipe I think) and a tablespoon of olive oil for about 10-12 minutes (15-20 in my oven so give them more if they need it)…uh oh…turning them half way through, which I now realise I forgot to do (d’oh!).

Wrap a slice of parma ham around each of the 4 salmon fillets and heat the frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the fish for about 2 minutes on each side (I did this for 1 minute each side the second time and it worked out better – overcooked fish is a crime against us all), then put the fillets on top of the sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes (in my oven 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, chop up a handful of coriander with a clove of garlic and the juice of half a lemon and 2 spring onions (the second time I left out the onions and used lime juice instead and think it was way nicer, but I’ve always been more of a lime in my gin-and-tonic girl too) and, if you want, whizz these in a mixer.

When the stuff in the oven is ready, stick ’em on a plate with a little bit of the lemon/lime goo drizzled on top. Easy and tasty! Salmon and sweet potato go really well together – who knew! And if you throw on a bit of avocado too, it doesn’t seem to hurt any. Apart from the sage, everything was really easy and inexpensive to get in Lidl and Dunnes. I have to say though, when I marry George Clooney or similar, I’m going to hire someone else to chop up the sweet potatoes.

PS Now that I have the sage, what should I do with the rest of it? Any recipes gratefully received!


  1. Hi Maria. Glad you still have your fingers after the sweet potato tug-o-war.
    I rarely use sage, so when I do there’s always some leftover. I use it up in a Sage, Onion and Potato Omelettes.
    Chop the potatoes into nice thin slices, saute them in butter or olive oil with onion until cooked. About 10-15 mins.
    Throw in the finely chopped sage, cook for another minute or two and then add the beaten eggs.
    A bit of feta or parmesan cheese won’t do any harm if you have them lying around.

  2. Hi Maria,sounds yum. I use my leftover sage in pork schnitzle. I get boneless pork chops – remove fat bash out with rolling pin(or wine bottle as I have no rolling pin).dip in egg and then dip into seasoned breadcrumbs to which i added a fine lot of chopped up fresh sage. Then in the pan – i add oil and a bit of butter and fry off more sage – to flavour the fat,then remove the sage – it goes crispy so easy to remove and then fry my pork schnitzle for a few mins. Serve with some lemon – gorgeous!

  3. You sound like you are getting to be a fancier cook by the day! It will be a 3 course dinner party in no time. I also love it that most of your cooking attempts do seem to involve dutch courage or warm up drinks beforehand – most impressive!

  4. Sounds yum, I might do this for dinner tonight. I love cooking but only get time to do proper fancy stuff at the weekend…

  5. Maria that is a culinary spectacular! Delicious with sweet potato – which could be substituted or combined with ratatouille – for those of you who want to know if I know what that is – just saute stewed onions, courgettes, tin of tomatoes, aubergine and peppers together on the pan – or buy it in an epicure (I think) tin in the

    The sage could also be used in your own hamburgers.
    You’ll need 8 oz of lean mince/salt & pepper/pince of sage, thyme and paprika/1 tsp of ketchup or BBq sauce/1 small onion chopped finely/1 small egg for binding the mix/dash of flour.

    Combine the lot except the flour, divide into 3 large burgers, shape them and shake little flour on.

    Cook for 5/10 mins per side depending on how you like them – serve with your favourite additions to the bun – slied tomato,pickles and cheese or – you could also have them on the own with a serving of ratatouille!

    Cheap, cheerful and delicious on these cold evenings.