The sweet potato, or boniato, is in fact not a potato at all, but a member of the morning glory family. This versatile vegetable has a great many uses and makes a refreshing change from the traditional spud. The sweet potato is ideal for roasting, making soups, for purees, and many more culinary uses. Additionally the bright orange colour of the vegetable tells us that the sweet potato is also a good source of carotene and vitamin A. Additionally this vegetable is regarded as the most important tropical root crop in the world. Introduced into Africa, possibly by slave traders, the sweet potato has since its introduction steadily replaced the true yam in Africa as a major source of carbohydrate.
The first Europeans to sample the sweet potato were likely to be members of the Columbus expedition to Haiti 1492.
A common method for cooking sweet potatoes is to allow them to bake on the embers of a fire, letting the skin become charred while the pulp remains moist and succulent; this is a great and healthy street food. Again when simply boiled in their skins the sweet potato is also delicious. A great and wholesome soup can be made from this vegetable and due to the natural sweetness of the vegetable it tends to be popular with the kids as well.
Sweet potato soup
3 large sweet potatoes, chopped roughly
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
700ml vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to season
Into a thick based pan add the potatoes, onion, garlic, and butter and allow to sweat without colour with a lid on the pot until all the vegetables are soft. You will need to stir the soup often with a wooden spoon.
Add the vegetable stock and allow the soup to simmer for around 10 minutes, then blend the soup. Finish with the cream and season with salt and pepper.
Another great use for sweet potatoes is to simply roast them with a little olive oil and serve on their own or as an accompaniment to a meal.
3 sweet potatoes
25ml olive oil
5g fresh thyme, chopped fine
Chop the sweet potatoes into large chunks and toss in the oil, making sure the potatoes are well coated in oil. Place into a roasting dish and place the butter on top of the potatoes, sprinkle with the thyme and season. Roast in a moderate oven at 180°C until the sweet potatoes become soft and begin to caramelise on the outside. Be careful not to allow them to burn.