Sweet potatoes contain storage proteins called sporamins, and recent studies have shown their important healing benefits. It turns out that when a sweet potato plant is subjected to physical damage, sporamins are produced to help the plant heal! Their ability to do this is significantly related to their role as antioxidants, which help prevent oxidative damage to our body’s cells. When sweet potato is being digested inside our gastrointestinal tract, we may get some of their antioxidant benefits. This means that the healing properties sweet potato plants exhibit on their own cells is passed on to us when we munch them. Talk about a good sharer.
- 2–3 large sweet potatoes
- 2 tbsp melted coconut oil or ghee
- 4 tbsp cornmeal or polenta
- 1 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste, if desired)
- spices: try garlic powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and/or dried parsley
Chermoula yogurt dip
- 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems only
- 1 large bunch coriander, leaves and tender stems only
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 large hunk of ginger
- 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp cumin, ground
- ½ tbsp coriander seeds, ground
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- pinch saffron threads
- 1 cup goat’s milk yoghurt (or yoghurt of your choice, ripe avocado, soaked cashews)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Scrub the sweet potatoes well under running water. Slice them into long sticks 1 cm thick. Place them in a bowl of water, swish around a few times, then drain (this step helps remove some of the starch from the potato). Place potatoes on a clean tea towel and dry thoroughly. Let them air-dry while you prepare everything else.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. On low heat, melt coconut oil or ghee in a small saucepan. Place cut potatoes on a cookie sheet, drizzle the oil over and toss very well to coat. Add cornmeal, salt and spices and coat well.
Place fries on a lined baking sheet, making sure that they are not overlapping. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp (in my experience, there is no need to flip them halfway through cooking).
Meanwhile, blend all dip ingredients except yoghurt to your desired consistency. Mix equal parts yoghurt with the finished chermoula (e.g. ¼ cup yoghurt + ¼ cup chermoula). I like to mix the chermoula with yoghurt right before serving. The chermoula will last longer in the fridge (up to a week) if kept separate from the yoghurt.
The secret to this recipe is not just about the ingredients, but the process. You can imagine I’ve tried just about everything to achieve the perfect baked fry, so hear me out on the following steps:
• One, size matters. By this, I mean that the fries need to be the same thickness, otherwise they will cook at different rates, and that they should be sliced somewhere in the 1 cm ballpark range.
• Two, rinse well. This step removes some of the starch from the vegetable and helps improve crispness while baking. It is also important after this step to dry the fries well. The more water you can remove from their exterior, the better.
• Three, these fries need their space. Much like mushrooms, if the sweet potatoes are too close together on the baking tray, they will steam each other. Steam equals soggy. No thanks.
• Four, the last little element that really makes these fries special, is of course cornmeal. The idea came to me recently after trying polenta fries and making the connection between the delightfully crisp texture around the edges, and the cornmeal from which they were made. I realised that by coating veggies in cornmeal before baking them may deliver the same effect. Ta-da! I was right.
Recipe from My New Roots by Sarah Britton, with photographs by Sarah Britton.