Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Y is for Yams
There is a stall in our local market that sells exotic fruit and vegetables. On our first visit it was like visiting a zoo and being unable to recognise any of the animals. But now we are old hands. Freddie was circling the stall pointing at each vegetable saying, “I’ve eaten that”, “Tried that”, “Hated that”, “Loved that.”
He enjoys collecting football cards. This market stall has become his own personal vegetable collection.
Freddie stopped at one huge pen of vegetables and called me over. There was tray after tray of huge boulders; a Jurassic park of vegetables. They looked like nests of dinosaur eggs and Freddie was in awe. The price label said yams. On sale were Cocoa yams, white yams from Ghana, yellow yams, gigantic yams labelled Puna yams and Brazil soft yams, oozing sticky white milk.
We wondered if they might hatch if we took them home.
Yams are grown in tropical countries with different species cultivated in each area. I dithered over what to buy, my confidence waning. Freddie picked up one of the biggest boulders with skin like tree bark.
I edged up to a woman in the local fruit and vegetable market, leaning against a huge wooden tray of yams. I quizzed her on cooking techniques and how to prepare the different varieties.
“Are you feeding a lot of people?”she asked.
“No just the four of us.”
“Well if you want to use it to put in a beef stew, then buy some white yams. They can be a little bit hard but they are good in a stew. The easiest thing is to make some mash. But if you want to make a really soft mash that little children will like, try the soft yam,” she advised, pointing at the yam oozing white milk.
We brought our yam selection home. The yam is the swollen underground stem tuber of a sprawling vine. Each variety of yam differs in its texture, sweetness and moistness. They can be used like potatoes or sweet potatoes so I thought that we should try out Yam Rosti for a Sunday breakfast. We used the soft yam. When I cut into it and peeled it, it became very sticky and moist. I grated it into a bowl. By now the yam was soft and sticky and clung together. It was as if some kind of chemical reaction was underway. The yam rapidly turns an unpleasant grey colour if you don’t add some lemon juice. Using a tea-towel I squeezed some of the moisture out of the grated yam and spooned it into little mounds to fry as rosti. They need to be seasoned with some salt and pepper as yam does not have a very strong taste of its own. Freddie and Alex, who have tasted rosti made from potato and sweet potato thought the yams were just as good. They earned 9 out of 10.
Yam Rosti with poached eggs
To serve 4
450g of peeled and grated yam
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil or knob of butter to fry.
4 eggs, poached
Peel the yam and grate it. You will need to squeeze some lemon juice into the grated yam as it discolours very quickly. Using a clean tea towel, squeeze the moisture out of the grated yam. Add some salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir round. Heat the olive oil or butter in a large frying pan. Put four tablespoons of grated yam spaced apart in the pan. Carefully flatten them down with a fish slice. Cook in the oil or butter for 1-2 minutes. Use a fish slice to turn over each rosti. Make sure both sides are golden brown and crisp. Prepare these in batches so warm a dish in the oven to store them as you cook each batch. Serve with a poached or if you prefer a fried egg on top.
How do you like your yams?