Sometimes, you’ve got to make a bit of a doozy.

For me around this time of year, a doozy means anything that takes more than 20 minutes to put together. Long nights, hibernation, crazy amounts of work for those of us in catering, and a cozy bed that won’t quit calling my name on weekends? Sounds like lots of quick one-pan meals to me. There’s nothing wrong with these — they’re delicious and filling — but I forget that I like to fuss a little bit sometimes when I invite someone over after a period of not paying much attention to the kitchen.

Mac was over on Friday for dinner before we went to see James’s play (an apocalyptic retelling of A Christmas Carol, of course). I’d cooked quinoa and put some big fat corona beans in to soak the night prior, so putting this together took less time than the beans did to soften in their spicy broth. If you use canned beans, this goes much more quickly, but the texture of the dried is a hundred times better. Let it take time while you put the sweet potato cakes together. They’re a riff on a Deborah Madison recipe from Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone that I’ve made several times, in several different ways. They play nicely against the earthy lamb. If you want to make this all vegetarian, of course, you can leave out the lamb, and you can even make the cakes vegan with tofu instead of cheese and an egg’s worth of egg replacer.

white beans lamb sweet potato cakes

Ragout of Corona Beans and Lamb Sausage with Harissa Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes
serves 4

for the ragout:
1 cup dried corona beans or other large white beans
sunflower oil
2 lamb sausages, about 2/3 pound, in 1/2″ slices (if you’re in Portland, go for the Moroccan ones at Sheridan’s)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white wine
1 quart chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (do not substitute dried)
a few gratings of lemon zest

for the cakes:
sunflower oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 10-oz sweet potato, peeled, cut in 1″ chunks, steamed until soft, and mashed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 egg
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated jack cheese
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon harissa paste
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and/or cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint (do not substitute dried)
pinch of salt
a few gratings of lemon zest

for the kale:
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smooshed but not cut
1 bunch kale, stripped and roughly chopped
1/4 cup white wine
pinch of salt
a few gratings of lemon zest

Soak beans in 4 cups water overnight.

In a soup pot heat a film of oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add the sausage in a single layer in the pan, turn the heat to medium, and don’t stir until there’s a nice brown crust on the sausage. Once you get that sear, move it around to cook it through, then remove it from the pan and set aside. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and tomato paste and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add bay leaf. Turn heat back to high and add wine, scraping up all those lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pan. When you put your nose in the steam and no longer want to leap back from the waft of booze, the alcohol has cooked off and you can add the soaked beans (discard their soaking water), cooked sausage, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and drop the heat down to a simmer, then make the sweet potato cakes.

In a small pan heat a film of oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Spoon into a mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and squoosh it all up with your hands. Form into patties and set aside.

When the beans are cooked through, after an hour or so, add lemon zest and mint. Then cook the sweet potato cakes: heat a film of oil in a nice wide pan over medium high heat until it shimmers, then place as many cakes as can fit in the pan without crowding and cook until brown, 2-3 minutes per side. When all the cakes are cooked, leave the oil in the pan and use it to cook kale: put the garlic cloves in the oil and as soon as you smell them, pull them out again. They should not be browned. Add kale and salt; stir to coat in the oil. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and immediately cover the pan to let it steam for a minute or two. While that cooks, chop the garlic, which should be softened. Remove cover, put garlic back in the pan, and add wine. Cook off the alcohol and add lemon zest.

Now, plate it! Ragout on the bottom, top with kale on one side and cakes on the other. I used two cakes per serving but there should be enough for three if you like.