Take me back.  Back to the High Line, to Venice Beach, to City Lights. Take me back to infinite brunches and Balanchine-saturated ballet classes; parched vistas and grimy yet glamorous glitz. Yes, apple pie and cheese can be eaten together. Take me back to loud and proud. Take me back to contradictions and contrasts. One minute you see sun dappled foliage, a multitude of layers, drapes concealing condos with rooms you wouldn’t know what to do with; next minute you’re staring at a dusty concoction of neon, corrugated iron, slight evidence of humanity in the fact that this point on the map is a motel – the eponymous owner won’t be there to say hi so you’re left to take a little shelter from the onslaught of overhead radiation inside. Soft pastel mirage one moment, blaring screens the next.  Take me back to bustling markets with unequalled Mexican food (save Mexico, itself). Back to holes in the wall where a tiny malt cake will BLOW YOUR MIND. Didn’t you feel as if you were in a movie back there? All Mulholland Drive and LaLa Land? You know, you can still be a cowboy in Dallas. Yes, take me back, without a doubt. To big and bold; a garish magnetism you can’t deny is epic. And if you cant’t take me back, at least make me some Loaded Chips to keep both my tummy and my feelings satiated.

 

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Loaded Chips

This recipe is inspired by my summer trip to the States, where I travelled from East Coast to West; New York City via Texas and Las Vegas to San Diego, through LA, finishing in San Francisco. I feel specific places mentioned above deserve particular clarification for those contemplating a visit themselves. The High Line refers to the ingenious ex-railroad park in NYC, while Venice Beach cites the eclectic boardwalk in LA and City Lights is a book-lover’s book store in San Fran. I took ballet classes at Steps on Broadway, NYC, and the tiny malt cake alludes to the unparalleled Superiority Burger in the same city’s East Village, which just happens to be veggie and sometimes vegan. My mentioning of apple pie is a big attribution to Julian – home of the best apple pie (not a gimmick, let me tell you). Mexican food is an unrivalled experience in Grand Central Market, Downtown LA, and the dusty motel is Roy’s on Route 66 – a must when taking the road trip from Vegas to San Diego, plus my note about cowboys is an allusion to the Cowboys Red River nightclub, Dallas.

Serves 10

6 big white sweet potatoes (or any type of potato really)

8 tins sweetcorn

2 packs Linda McCartney’s (I’m not sure whether these are available internationally – if you don’t have access to this brand then use other protein-based veggie burgers) mozzarella burgers, defrosted and crumbled into mince

1 red onion, finely sliced

Apple cider vinegar, enough to cover onion

2 tsp grape molasses

400g mixed tomatoes (in both size and colour)

Couple of handfuls fresh basil, chopped

3 avocados

Juice of 1 lemon

Mixture of cheeses (I like Edam, Gruyere and Cheddar; I use a whole block of each, roughly 500g total depending on how much of a cheese fanatic you are)

Oil and black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Chop tomatoes into small dice and leave in a colander to drain for at least 30 mins.

Pour enough vinegar over the sliced onions to cover and set aside.

Wash and chop potatoes into desired chip size (I prefer about 3 to 4 cm by 0.5 cm by 0.5 cm), leaving skin on. Transfer in a couple of baking trays, coat with oil and season with black pepper.

Place in oven for 20 to 30 mins until soft with crispy edges.

Meanwhile, mash the avocados with a fork. Mix in the lemon juice and set aside.

Blitz the sweetcorn into a rustic paste in a blender. Season with black pepper and keep to one side.

Finish the salsa by draining away most of the vinegar from the onion and combining with the tomatoes. Add the grape molasses and a handful of basil. Set aside.

When the chips are cooked and cool enough to handle, turn oven down to 180 degrees Celsius and layer up a deep casserole dish in the following order: 1/3 of chips, 1/6 cheese, 1/3 sweetcorn puree, 1/3 mince, 1/6 cheese. Repeat twice more.

Place in oven for 20 mins or until cheese is completely melted (be sure to check the middle by making a small opening with a knife which can then be smoothed back over).

Leave to stand for 5 mins before sprinkling over remaining handful of basil. Serve with salsa and mashed avocado.

Eat and enjoy!

 

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