Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Slatit batata helwa: Claudia's Moroccan sweet potato salad

Sweet potatoes are a funny vegetable. They pop up in many countries, and each has its own way with them.

In Australia, sweet potatoes often get flung in the oven in a medley with other root veggies with the Sunday roast. If a spice is used at all, it's likely to be cumin, otherwise it's topped with lashings of butter.

One freezing winter when I was studying in China, old guys used to hang around the university gates selling for pennies piping hot roast sweet potatoes, which they weighed on old-time pan and rod scales . With dormitory heating on only at set times of the day, we unacclimatized Aussie students were as likely to use those hot pods as handwarmers as we were to tuck into their belly-filling flaky sweetness.

Around Yokohama and Tokyo, the sound of the yaki-imo or stone-roasted sweet potato guy calling out, "Ishi yaki-imo, yaki-imo," from his wood-fired stove-bedecked truck is the first sign of autumn. But buy one from this old guy, and you're likely to pay a small fortune!

Here we have a Moroccan treatment, with spices, lemon, honey and other goodies. This one is boiled, and with its unctuous spicy sweet and sour coating, looks and tastes quite impressive. I'm afraid that I disappointed my dear friend Hw when he asked how long this took to make; is twenty minutes really all it takes to get something this criminally good!

In all the years I've cooked this, I've not once not had to boil down the cooking liquid until it was syrupy. But that could just be the type of sweet potatoes I use. Anyway, this is more than made up for by spicy aroma that wafts through the house whenever I make this. You might want to wait to skim the scum off the surface before you add those spices, though.

This is also from the same article of Claudia's in the Guardian here. And yes, this and the tagine in the previous post are perfect partners.

Slatit batata helwa (Claudia's Moroccan sweet potato salad)

In this Moroccan salad, the mix of sweet and spicy is quite delicious. It is nice as it is but you may add, if you like, a handful of black olives, the chopped peel of a preserved lemon and a tablespoon of capers. Serve it as an appetiser.

Serves 6

700 g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 cm cubes
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp harissa or a good pinch chilli pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsps honey
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander

1 Boil the sweet potatoes in just enough water to cover. Stir in the ginger, cinnamon, harissa or ground chilli pepper, lemon juice, honey and salt, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, turning them over once and being careful not to let them overcook and fall apart. The sauce should be reduced to a thick syrupy consistency. If it is not, lift out the potatoes with a slotted spoon into a serving dish and reduce the sauce further by boiling.

2 Just before the end of cooking stir in the oil and the parsley or coriander. Serve cold.



Cynthia said...

This is such an interesting post... it is nice to read about how other people prepare certain ingredients. Here in the Caribbean we mostly boil them and mash them with butter or serve them boiled and sliced. We also candy then make a savoury sweet potato pie.

Saffron said...

Hi Cynthia!

We also have a candied sweet potato dish here in Japan that's topped with black sesame seeds. Now if only I could remember what it's called...

PS Good luck with the book!