As winter creeps in here on the vast African continent, we begin to turn to some of our favorite winter treats. This week I have been very busy with the Zambian local chefs working on some new and exciting recipes for our winter collection.
Polenta is very difficult to source here but maizemeal (the country's local staple) makes a great alternative cooked out slowly with fresh rosemary and garlic, and finished with parmesan!
Mungbeans and lentils take their place in soups and hearty broths simmering in huge pots over the campfire as the Tongabezi choir dance and sing to entertain our guests.
The African Sweet Potato is closely related to the yam, which all our American readers will recognise as a wonderful and versatile vegetable. Yet the sweet potato is generaly underutilized; it has long had a reputation as a poor man's food and is not always popular with the less adventurous cook.
Rich in beta-carotene and high in dietary fibre and vitamin E, there are two varieties of sweet potato--the common European one is dry and cream in colour, while the African variety is moist and yellow/orange.
It has been one of the favorite secondary staples in Africa for many generations, and can be prepared in a variety of different ways. Here in Zambia it is usually simply boiled or baked, and eaten seasoned with salt. But in our bush kitchen we have been slightly more creative and would like to share some of our fun and quick ideas with you.
A delicious sweet potato gratin can be created if you slice your potatoes and bake them with a little fresh cream, garlic and nutmeg. Sweet potatoes cook very quickly and this simple dish is scrumptious with grilled beef. And if you want, you can prepare extra--unlike normal potato dishes, sweet potato freezes well!
They are perfect peeled, boiled and mashed with butter and served with fresh bream or cod.
They can even be served as a dessert...try boiling them and blending to a puree with fresh eggs and cream then bake the filling in sweet pastry for a wild pudding!
I also make a wonderful sweet potato marmalade; simply peel and grate your potato and follow your favorite jam recipe...you won't go wrong.
For an elegant crunch at your next dinner party, very finely slice the unpeeled sweet potato (on a mandolin slicer if you have one) and lightly fry in hot sunflower oil--you will get the most yummy potato crisps which are great on their own with a little sea salt, or pile aside your main course entrecote for a healthy alternative to french fries. And for a real health kick, cook sweet potatoes and liquidize with carrot juice and a pinch of nutmeg--you now have an incredible smoothie which is a meal in itself.
Whatever you decide to experiment with, you canrest assured that you will soon find yourself appreciating this wonderful tuber with all its healthy properties.