I love sweet potato.
It's hard not to. That dull, knobbly exterior promises so little and yet the rich, vibrant orange exterior delivers so much.
I remember mashed sweet potato as one of the first pureed vegetables that our children ate when they were starting on solids, and also the only one that felt at all adult appealing ... "one for baby," ... "one for Mummy."
I'm also super nostalgic about eating fish and sweet potato fries, outside on a picnic bench, in a particularly idyllic, rural setting in the world's most beautiful country - New Zealand. Can fish and chips taste any better than it does in the great outdoors? I think I know the answer to that.
And I'm not a mash fan ordinarily - controversial, I know - but sweet potato mash, with a little garlic, chilli and rosemary ... now we're talking.
So, considering how much I love sweet potatoes, why is it then, that whenever I buy some, they so often end up sitting lost and unloved at the bottom of the fridge until they can practically walk out on their own?
I think it's mostly because they are not in my normal cooking routine and when family life is full and busy, it's easier to be cooking things that I don't have to think too hard about or that don't involve too much work. Does that sound familiar? For me, it applies mostly to things that need to be prepped before I can do anything with them. For example, if I buy a bunch of gorgeous, fresh, peppery rocket straight from the field (a.k.a still covered in soil), take it home and pop it in the fridge as it is, it will, most likely, stay there until it's limp and yellowing. BUT, if I wash it, pick it off the thick stalks and bag it as soon as I get home then it will get used and enjoyed.
Sometimes, making the most of the food that we buy is about doing the dull prep as soon as possible and not leaving it until the time when you least feel like it. It doesn't make the hassle go away, but choosing your moment can make it heaps more bearable.
So here's how I am applying this to my sweet potato challenge ... As soon as I have bought some sweet potatoes, I take them home and bake them whole in the oven - the flesh in its mashed form is, after all, how I most often use this vegetable.
I wait until I've got something else in the oven, admittedly, and I'll most likely do 3 or 4 at once. I'll bake them on a tray covered in tin foil (because they sometimes ooze a sticky goo that makes a big mess on the base of the oven) and they may take an hour at 180°C, 350°F (gas mark 4) or perhaps a bit longer. Then I will let them cool, scoop the soft flesh out of the papery skin and store the 'mash' in the fridge for 2 or 3 days until I'm ready to use it.
Now I have the main ingredient all ready to rustle up a luscious sweet potato mash or alternatively, I'm all set to go with this comforting, lightly spiced Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup. It's a beautiful, mellow blend of warmth and creaminess and boy, is it pretty too?
And here's why this Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup will be your 'go-to' happy solution for using that sad sweet potato in the fridge -
- This is quick and easy - particularly because your main ingredient (the sweet potato), will be already cooked when you start preparing the soup.
- It tastes so rich and creamy that you'd be certain it contains all those ingredients you might be trying to avoid. Don't panic - there's no butter, no milk, no cream ... only ingredients that are good for the body and the soul.
- This is popular with children and is sufficiently filling for a mid-week dinner with some bread for dunking.
- Great in a food flask for packed lunches.
- Freezes like a dream.
- Pimp it up with a blob of plain yoghurt and a scattering of coriander to make it look like a million dollars.
And if you don't have a sweet potato in the fridge to use up - quick ... run ... you need to go to the shops and sort that out. But don't fall into the neglected sweet potato trap - be sure to get that dull prep done and dusted and bake it as soon as you get home.
After all, orange is the new black ...