I never met a vegetable I didn't like. I'm no vegetarian but I believe vegetables and their preparation are under-represented in the national culinary consciousness. Maybe it's the name. What sounds more appetising: 'Fancy some vegetable?' or 'Fancy some rare barbecued sirloin?' I rest my case.
When I met Tracy, she was borderline vegetarian or maybe she just wasn't sure. She's Libran. They can never make up their minds. (I don't think she even said 'Yes' or 'No' when I proposed. She accepted the ring, though, so I took it as 'Yes' and went off and organised the wedding.)
Anyway, when we first went out - those heady, carefree days of sitting around starry-eyed in cafes eating hummingbird cake and drinking endless caffe lattes - Tracy was always making hunza pies and lentil burgers and pumpkin soup and Thai beef salads without the beef. So I naturally tried to impress, responding with some of my meat-free specialities, including a provencale sauce for pasta and a layered salad thing that had cold potato and onion rings on the bottom and slices of capsicum, mushrooms and tomatoes in the middle and cold cooked fresh peas on top.
But then, one weekend, I met the folks. They lived in the countryside and we stayed overnight. Dinner was steak pie. Breakfast was fried black pudding and bacon. Either Tracy hadn't told her parents she was vegetarian, or they had ignored it. I still haven't figured out which. I must ask her one day.
Here's one of the vegetable things we used to do. It still makes frequent appearances on the table, because it is delicious.
Sweet potato with chili and coriander butter.
This is ideal for smaller sweet potatoes. Bake four of them whole in an overproof dish in a moderately hot oven for half an hour. Skewer them down the middle to speed up the cooking time.
Meanwhile, mash half a cup of chopped coriander, a couple of finely chopped red chilies and a dash of salt into three quarters of a cup of butter. Reset in refrigerator in clingwrap if necessary.
When sweet potato is done, slice lengthways and top with butter mixture generously, slicing it off in rounds. Serve with thin slices of rare barbecued sirloin. Or not.