Thomasina Miers’ recipe for roast mushroom and sweet potato salad with balsamic onions

My first trip to the US was a food pilgrimage to California. While in San Francisco, I visited Zuni Cafe, a restaurant famed for its roast chicken bread salad. I wanted to make a vegetarian version, and this is the result: crisp and juicy croutons; sweet, sticky onions; roast, garlicky mushrooms … it is a total feast and a nifty way to use up stale bread.

Roast mushroom and sweet potato salad with sweet balsamic onions
This salad is a meal in itself, but it also goes very well with sausages, a burger or a chop.

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4-6

2 large sweet potatoes (about 500g)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp smoked paprika (I use 1 tsp each of sweet and spicy), or ancho chilli flakes
Flaky salt
1 handful thyme, leaves only
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
400g mixed mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large handfuls mixed salad leaves (I like baby gem and rocket), to serve
Juice of ½ lemon
80g goat’s cheese

For the balsamic onions
200g stale, rustic bread or sourdough, crusts removed
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Cut the sweet potatoes in quarters lengthways, and then cut each wedge into three or four large, bite-sized chunks (they will shrink in the oven).

Bash the garlic to a puree with the smoked paprika, a teaspoon of flaky salt, half the thyme and five tablespoons of olive oil.

Spread the sweet potatoes out on a baking tray, toss in the oil and put in the oven. After 20 minutes, add the mushrooms and roast until everything is tender and caramelised.

In the meantime, tear the bread into rough chunks and put on a second roasting tray. Add the sliced onions, the rest of the thyme, balsamic and sugar along with two tablespoons of the oil and four tablespoons of water. Season generously. Roast on the shelf below the mushrooms and potatoes until the onions are sweet and the bread is crisp and golden in places – 30-35 minutes.

When you’re ready to eat, empty the two trays of vegetables on to a large platter or bowl, and toss with the salad leaves. Squeeze over the lemon juice, taste and check for seasoning. If the salad is at all dry, add another glug of olive oil. Crumble over the goat’s cheese and serve at once.