On the Table: Why sweet potato is king of root veg
A silver lining of the slide into winter? The return of seasonal root veg, sweet potatoes being a king among them, writes Cambridge Cookery MD Tine Roche
Hello, my name is Tine and I am addicted to sweet potatoes.
That doesn’t worry me, as by the time the snowdrops are past their best and the first daffodils poke their sunny heads above ground, I will have been cured of my addiction.
In fact, my enthusiasm will start to wane as soon as we pass Christmas. I will instead develop a craving for asparagus, counting the months until I can bite into the first tender spear of the season.
The beauty of eating seasonal produce is that each new season appears remarkably fresh and enticing, and at the end of a season, be it a few short weeks or several months, the produce begins to look a lot less appealing. Creating that natural cycle of recipes, cooking methods, new combinations as well as trusted classics, is both sustainable and healthy.
So after six months of the vegetable drawers in the fridges of the café and cookery school being devoid of orange tuberous roots, they are back, and being looked at with love and respect.
During the long, dark month of November, when summer is but a distant memory and the Christmas holidays are a long way away, we need delicious, warming, roasted, pan fried food to keep us going. Sweet potatoes make delicious bakes, ideally partnered with contrasting flavours and textures.
Try roasting it with bitter, crimson radicchio and dark green sage, adding pieces of melting taleggio cheese; roast it whole and purée the flesh, mix it with ricotta and parmesan and use it as a filling for homemade ravioli doused in brown butter and crispy sage or put it on savoury muffins; roast big chunks of it next to a whole chicken; sprinkle it with salty feta and juicy pomegranate seeds in a salad topped with dill; or bake it, split it and fill with sour cream for a delicious alternative to standard baked potatoes.
Celeriac is another gorgeous root vegetable which makes the best purée and partner for roasted game birds or a piece of very rare venison fillet, perhaps with some butter fried porcini on the side. Cook it with pieces of apple and make a sumptuous mash, adding generous lumps of butter and a little cream when you mash it.
Dark leafed greens also roast brilliantly, crisping up beautifully as any lover of crispy “seaweed” knows, and offering itself as a perfect playmate for slices of red chilli, a squeeze of orange juice and plenty of sea salt. Cabbages also work simmered al dente, just to take the crunch off, and then cooked again in butter and cumin seeds. A dirt cheap, delicious side dish for almost anything.
If you fancy a warming bangers and mash supper, up the nutritional value, as well as the deliciousness, by adding a leafy green on the side. Let some apple wedges pan fry next to the sausages, add apple to the potatoes when they boil before being mashed, grate some apples and mix with grated carrot, squeeze over lemon juice, a small sprinkling of sugar and throw in a handful or juicy sultanas.
There are so many ways in which to eat well for very little money, while at the same time ensuring that vital vitamins and fibre are added to every meal. That is what I will do as we are enveloped in darkness yet again, and much needed vitamin D is no longer on tap from the sun.
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More by this authorTine Roche