sweet potato

by Soha Darwish

Food writer & Critic – Menu Consultant – Diploma in Food Journalism – London, UK

I just can’t get enough of this long-forgotten root vegetable, which is making a strong comeback to our kitchens, as well as the restaurant dining scene. It has also been proclaimed as a ‘Superfood’!

 

Sweet potato is a sweet root vegetable, native to the tropical regions in the Americas. The outer smooth skin colour ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown and purple. Its flesh ranges from beige through white, red, pink, orange and even purple.

 

Nowadays, with the health consciousness craze, more people are becoming mindful of their food choices, and its impact on their physical and mental state. Ultimately, this humble vegetable came under the radar for its superiority in nutrients, flavours and versatility. As besides simple starches and fibers, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and micronutrients e.g. vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and manganese. The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene – a vital anti-oxidant. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol), which we need for healthy skin, a strong immune system and for good eyesight.

Traditionally sweet potatoes have been baked, roasted and mashed – as a side dish, but now we see them in salads, risottos, curries and in baby food purées–even as a healthier alternative for the infamous French fries. This is, of course, in addition to their starring roles in scrumptious desserts and pies for their distinctive earthy sweetness, that when baked or even simmered on the hob, they ooze with irresistible caramelised syrup.

Here are two unusual recipes that take sweet potatoes to another level:

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

(serves 8)

A simple recipe but nevertheless, it still delivers mellow and soothing flavours that linger on your palate and memory. I like to roast the sweet potatoes first, to intensify the flavour, as I believe they are most glorious when roasted. Enjoy this velvety soup, with all the comfort soups always bring us!

Steps

  1. Lay the sweet potatoes on a roasting tray, skin on. Place in a preheated oven (200 C), and roast until core is soft and oozing with caramelised syrup. Leave to cool down, so you can take the skin off easily.
  2. In a big sauce pan, sauté the chopped onion with the butter, until translucent.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, chopped carrots and all the seasoning listed in the shopping basket. Cover with chicken stock or water, and simmer until carrots are soft.
  4. Take the cloves and bay leaf out, blend the mixture with a hand blender, until the consistency is thick and smooth.
  5. Put it back on the heat, bring it to boil, then add the cream, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Serve hot in soup bowls topped with melted Parmesan shavings!

Shopping Basket:

1.5 kg sweet potato-1 large brown onion- 2 carrots – 1 bay leaf-3 cloves – 1 litre of chicken stock or water – 200 ml double cream – 50g of salted butter- pinch of nutmeg – Parmesan or Gruyere shavings – salt & pepper.

Glazed Sweet Potato Pavlova

(serves 8)

A heavenly dessert that doesn’t require any pastry chef skills to make. I have tried it so many times, and every time it adds a wow factor to my table and haunts my guests for weeks!

Steps

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into big cubes.
  2. Place the cubes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 12 minutes, or until just tender.
  3. In a heavy skillet, combine brown sugar, water and butter. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potato cubes to the brown sugar mixture. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until well glazed, turning frequently to keep them from scorching. Leave it to cool down.
  5. Whip the cream and the icing sugar using a hand mixer, until reaching soft peaks.
  6. In a small pan, caramelise 2 tablespoons of caster sugar, just by heating until liquidising into a brown caramel syrup. Roughly crush the pecans, and then stir them in caramelised syrup. Remove from the pan to cool down.
  7. In a big serving bowl, lay some lightly crushed meringue baskets, then a layer of the glazed sweet potatoes, and a big dollop of the whipped cream. Repeat until the bowl is almost full, then crown it with the remaining cream.
  8. Finally, sprinkle the top with the caramelised pecans for an added crunch and nutty flavour. Tuck in!

Shopping Basket:

3 large sweet potatoes – 1 cup of brown sugar – 1 cup of icing sugar- 6 large meringue nests – 1 litre of whipping cream- 150g of slightly salted butter- 200g of peeled roasted pecans.