Savoury elements work very well as an ingredient in sweet cake

A Generic Photo of potatoes. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.
A Generic Photo of potatoes. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.

I never tire of emphasising, to anyone that’ll listen, the importance of tasting food before you serve it.

One of my pet hates is savoury ice creams. Stilton ice cream with balsamic reduction, served with black pudding anyone? Mushy pea sorbet with crispy bacon? Not my cup of tea at all, and I’m not sure whose it would be.

Stilton on a cheeseboard and mushy peas with fried fish are great, not whizzed with sugar into a frozen dessert! I’ve had many more of these abominations inflicted on me over the years and they’ve tasted as revolting as those two examples sound.

Where a savoury element can work well though is in a sweet cake. I judged a competition a few years ago and the winner was a delicious beetroot and chocolate cake. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot worked beautifully with the chocolate and made for a bubbly textured cake.

At the “Happiness Project” community garden in Cloughmills one of the volunteers, Sarah, who’s originally from Texas, does an amazing sweet courgette bread. It’s subtly spiced and has a moist texture.

If you’re lucky enough to grow your own courgettes this is a delicious way of using up a glut. I’ve included Sarah’s recipe this week – it’s in American cups but just use a coffee cup for measuring.

I’ve been in London this week cooking at the marvellous Borough Market and my theme was summer potato dishes. One of them was a potato cake – leftover mash whizzed into a sponge and topped, straight from the oven, with a Potato Vodka and elderflower syrup.

The potato vodka is a first for Northern Ireland, distilled by Stuart and Barbara Hughes in Lisburn and an addition to their already successful range of fruit-based Ruby Blue Liqueurs. The cake topped with the vodka syrup is a great showcase for Ulster potatoes and their versatility.

The last recipe this week is also a bit wacky and was given to me by a friend from New Zealand. It’s for raw chocolate brownies. It combines all the current health trends of eating food that hasn’t passed 80oc in temperature, is vegan and has coconut oil in it. It uses avocado as a binding agent too to keep up with the vegetable theme.

I was on the island of Ibiza last week and they have a chain of healthy restaurants called “Passion”. They specialise in juices, salads, home-baked breads and cakes and good natural ingredients with the emphasis being on vegetables with a little meat if necessary.

It was actually nice not to have massively fattening food on holidays for a change!

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak as much as the next person, but at this time of year, when we’re blessed with an abundance of fantastic vegetables, it does make sense to concentrate on their virtues and make the most of them while we have them.