When I was a child I spent a year living in the American city of Philadelphia. We arrived in 1976, a pale-faced English family with exemplary bad timing. Everyone was celebrating the bicentennial year of the American Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. Wherever we went there were renactments of battles. And to cap it all, my brother’s name was Benedict. In school he learnt with some unease that Benedict Arnold was an infamous traitor of the American revolution. We spent our first week at a university in Washington DC, undergoing “acclimatisation”. My parents sat through lectures on how to use the telephone, drive on the right-hand side of the road and dial 911 (preferably not all at once). I discovered the canteen. I drank coke, ate hot dogs and embraced hyperactivity. I chased round with all the other British children, high on sugar.
My own acclimatisation was rapid. Within a few months I stood on stage at my American school, belting out songs of the American revolution whilst trussed up in a Betsy Ross outfit. (She was said to have sewed the first American flag.) I tasted sweet potato mash for the first time and learnt how America’s first president George Washington grew them on his farm in Virginia. I hadn’t come across sweet potatoes before.
Nowadays they are in most supermarkets. Despite its name, sweet potato is not a type of potato and they are only distantly related. It is a sweet-tasting root vegetable with the cooked texture of a potato crossed with a carrot. Freddie’s first taste of sweet potato was a success. I baked them in their skins, in the same way as you might a potato, served with a little butter and black pepper. He scored this simple meal 8 out of 10.
Alex has cooked our next sweet potato meal - making spicy sweet potato wedges. Many of you have said how delicious these are. Alex created a paprika, chilli and curry powder spice mix. Freddie's score hit the jackpot, with 10 out of 10. "I think I want to do some of the cooking now with sweet potatoes..." Watch this space!
Sweet Potato Wedges
Serves 4 as a starter
500g sweet potatoes
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Half a tsp ground paprika
Half a tsp curry powder
Half a tsp mild chilli powder
Serve with a bowl of yoghurt or sour cream for dipping.
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Scrub the sweet potatoes clean but don’t peel. Cut them in half lengthways and then cut each half into four. In a bowl, add the oil and spices and mix together well. Lay the sweet potato wedges out on a non-stick baking tray and brush them well with the spiced oil. Make sure all sides are coated. Put them in the preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes. Serve them with a bowl of soured cream or yoghurt.