I have no idea when I will escape this food blog hiatus! Even when I make and photograph food, there never seems to be time to write about it – and most of the food I’ve been making this year has fallen into the category if quick and simple. And they tend to rely pretty heavily on Gewürzhaus spice mixes, which isn’t so helpful for recording them here.
I’m very fond of jacket sweet potatoes. Actually, I’m very fond of jacket potatoes, but my husband has an unnatural dislike of them, and sweet potatoes are better for you anyway, so that’s how it goes. If I ever manage to achieve regular writing on this blog, you can expect a fair number of jacket sweet potato recipes going forward, as they are becoming a bit of a winter staple…
This particular recipe, though, I’ve made a few times recently. It’s a nice, healthy, vegan dinner that is straightforward enough for a Friday night at the end of a long week. It wasn’t vegan on purpose, which is one reason it is so good, I suspect – I always get the cheese out, but never seem to use it, and when I made a point of using it once, it didn’t taste as good. So this is a meal that really wants to be vegan! It also happens to be gluten free and low-GI, and reasonably healthy, and tastes lovely and fresh and comforting, which makes it a much better alternative to the Friday night takeaway which was becoming a habit.
Your Shopping List
3 medium sweet potatoes (I know that’s vague, but aim for a similar sort of weight to what you’d do for an ordinary jacket potato meal)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, brown or red
1-2 tsp cajun spice mix, or a mixture of cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika and chilli
1 tin of black beans, drained (these are suddenly available at the supermarket! Yay! But if you can’t find them, red kidney beans also work)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder, or to taste
a little salt (lime salt is great if you have it)
2 spring onions (the long, thin ones that also get called shallots)
2 roma tomatoes
juice of one lemon or one lime (I almost never have limes, lemons do nicely)
2 tsp Gewürzhaus Guacamole Spice, if you have it, but failing that, a mixture of salt, cumin and chilli will do – probably a teaspoon in total will be fine.
chopped coriander, optional
Now what will you do with it?
Start by getting your jacket sweet potatoes on. Heat the oven to 200°C, fan forced if possible, and prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Put them on a tray lined with baking paper. I cannot express how important this step is – sweet potatoes, once they reach a certain point in the cooking process exude what I can only describe as a sort of burnt sugar lava, which will, if left unchecked, erupt all over your oven and stick to it in hard, rocklike chunks. They are a pig to get off. Trust me on this. Don’t, whatever you do, just put them directly on a rack in the oven like you would with ordinary potatoes. You will not enjoy the results.
The sweet potatoes need to cook for about an hour, a bit longer if your oven is fan-forced. You’ll know when they are done because of the aforementioned lava deposits, but also by poking them. They should be lovely and soft all the way through, like mashed potato.
While they are cooking, start your chilli.
Chop the onions fairly finely, and add them to a smallish saucepan with the olive oil. Cook until they are soft, then add the cajun spices for a minute or so before pouring in the tinned tomatoes with their juices and the black beans. Stir in the chipotle chilli and the lime salt, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and let them simmer until the sweet potatoes are done.
Make the guacamole.
Chop the spring onions finely (I tend to just use the white parts, sorry), and put them in a bowl. Chop the roma tomatoes as finely as you reasonably can, and add to the spring onions. Pour in the lemon juice and spices, and stir everything together well. Now add in the avocados, and mash everything together well. (I add the avocados after the lemon or lime juice in order to minimise their opportunities to go brown and evil. It seems to work.) If you remembered to buy coriander and can be bothered chopping it (i.e., if you are not me on a Friday evening), now is the time to add it. Cover the bowl with cling-wrap to keep everything nice until you are ready to eat.
Serve the baked sweet potatoes split in two, with a third of the chilli and a big spoonful or two of guacamole. You might have leftover guacamole. Oh, the hardship. Eat it with corn chips, you’ve already been healthy today.
This meal is, as mentioned, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and low-GI. It is, however, chock-full of fructose and fructans. We can’t have everything.. It’s also super-filling, at least in my opinion.
My first tip for you is to make a double or triple batch of this chilli and freeze it for next Friday. Really, it’s one more onion to chop, why wouldn’t you? In fact, why didn’t I? Ah yes, because my freezer is full of random stuff that I need to go through. But if yours isn’t, this is a very useful tip!
In terms of spices, I’ve gone for a pretty low-moderate chilli level in all of this – feel free to go higher. If you add a whole chipotle chilli in adobo, for example, you are going to have a much feistier dish. And how much chilli you add to the guacamole is your choice, but I like to keep it pretty mild. It’s a Friday. I’m not up for challenging my tastebuds this late in the week. In terms of pre-prepared spice mixes, you could go with pretty much any Mexican or similar spice mix that you enjoy. Chilli con carne is a bit heavy for my liking, but my husband likes it in this meal, so it’s really a personal taste thing.
You can, of course, enjoy this with an ordinary jacket potato (and by the way, you can eat the jackets of sweet potatoes), or just make the chilli mix and have it with corn chips or rice (why?), or, come to think of it, polenta might be a surprisingly nice accompaniment. But baked sweet potatoes are so easy and healthy and comforting and generally yummy – and low on washing up – that I’ve never felt tempted to do anything different…