Sweet potato comes in a variety of colours and textures and, in Malta, there are two varieties which are now grown locally: the classic sweet potato with a light purplish skin and an off-white interior, and the sweeter and creamier variety with a copper skin and bright orange flesh known as the ‘jewel’.
Sweet potato was commonly used in the cuisines of Africa and the Caribbean, but it is one of the most popular ingredients used in every country today. Sweet potatoes are a great source for Vitamins A and C and they are a great ingredient for quick, economical meals.
It is easy to under-roast a sweet potato as, although the flesh may appear soft and is indeed perfectly edible, a few extra minutes of cooking increases the sweet caramelised taste that you do not get from an ordinary potato.
All-in-one Pork Meatball and Sweet Potato Tray-bake
For the pork meatballs you will need:
300g pork mince
25g bacon, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp mustard
A light grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
For the rest of the traybake, you will need:
6 slices of Maltese bread
1 sweet potato, skin on and diced
6 tomatoes, skin on and diced
1 eggplant, diced half a butternut squash, cooked, peeled, roughly chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper chopped
2 potatoes, skin on and finely sliced
4 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 tablespoon pink pepper corns
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the pork meatballs: Mix all the ingredients together, form small balls and place on a plate covered with baking paper. If you have time, refrigerate for half an hour. If you do not have time, they will still retain their shape.
For the rest of the traybake: Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare a large ovenproof dish (I use 43cm x 27cm) by brushing it with olive oil.
Lightly brush the Maltese bread slices with olive oil on both sides.
Line the dish with the slices of Maltese bread.
Then arrange the vegetables on top of the bread, starting with the cooked sweet potato, then the onion, tomatoes, coloured peppers, butternut squash, eggplant. Place the meatballs on top of the vegetables. Finish off with a sprinkle of sundried tomatoes, capers, crushed peppercorns, coriander and salt and pepper.
Brush the slices of potato with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Line the sides of the dish with the sliced potatoes. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 50 minutes.
Lightly drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Lea’s tip: If you do not like the taste of pink peppercorns use crushed fennel seeds instead.
Raw chocolate brownie batter dip
You will need:
1 cup tofu (use ricotta for non-vegan and lactose inclusive diets)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp agave (you can use honey for non-vegan and lactose inclusive diets)
1/2 sweet potato
1 tbsp finely chopped almonds
150g sugar-free dark chocolate
This is a perfect addition to ice creams, or it can simply be used as a dip. It is vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free.
Place the sweet potato in the microwave and cook it. Timing depends on the microwave and the size of the potato, but it should take approximately 7 minutes. Allow to cool and peel.
Place the tofu (or ricotta), cocoa powder, agave (or honey), sweet potato, almonds and vanilla in a large bowl and use a hand held blender to bind and form a consistent mixture. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add it to the sweet potato mixture. Mix until it is smooth and consistent. The mixture should be soft enough to have a spreadable consistency.
Pipe into bowls and garnish with cherries and your favourite nibbles. Serve with ice cream or simply as a dip.
Lea’s tip: If you have a very sweet tooth, add a tablespoon of stevia.
Sweet potato, kale and tuna burgers
You will need:
2 sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and chopped
2 cans tuna fish
1 spring onion, chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs, or use gluten-free oatmeal for a gluten-free burger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
4 large kale leaves
½ root turmeric, grated
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Roasted sweet potato wedges with paprika
You will need:
2 sweet potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper and brush with olive oil. Wash the sweet potatoes well. Cut them into wedges, lengthwise. Toss the potato wedges in a mix of olive oil and paprika. Sprinkle some sea salt.
Lay the sweet potato wedges in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake them for 50 minutes in a hot oven. Turn them over after 35 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Lea’s tip: Leave the wedges long; they are great for dipping. For an extra special treat, add a grated mature plain cheeselet and 50g of bacon when you turn them over to cook for the last 35 minutes.
I use sweet potato, fruit and vegetables from Big Fresh, olive oil by Costa d’Oro, chocolate by Valor, nuts, grains, spices, herbs and dried fruit by Good Earth.