The sweet potato is a super-tritious veg, rampant with vitamin C, beta-carotene and legions of antioxidants. These are all immune-enhancing allies for our poor post-winter bods. It's puzzling why we don't scoff more of them, considering our partiality to a good old spud at teatime.
Like pumpkin, its roaring amber flesh houses lots of potassium. Those with high blood pressure should make friends with it. Hangovers also respond well to potassium, as do sporting cramps and bald spots.
I should mention that the texture of a sweet potato differs from a regular white one. The former is moist and unctuous, while the latter tends to be floury. As a result, sweet potatoes rarely require butter to seduce any predators. This might be just the food you're looking for in 2011.
Any time you have the oven turned on, throw in a few sweet potatoes. No need to pierce or slice the skin. They steam nicely in their jackets. Store your baked sweet potatoes in the fridge for up to two days. When the munchies hit, you'll do less damage to your waistline.
Sweet potato and lemongrass soup
Lemongrass is the easiest of exotic Asian herbs to deal with in a Western kitchen. I tend to have problems pronouncing the others, let alone soliciting them into a pan. Lemongrass is widely available in supermarkets now, which either means we are becoming more courageous behind the apron, or mournful of our carefree days backpacking around Thailand.
This strong, citrusy stalk is quite unlike anything else. Pummel the fat end and add to a pot of boiling rice, or thinly slice the delicate end and sprinkle on top of salads. It's guaranteed to transport you straight back on to the coconut-tree-lined beaches of Koh Samui.
The coconut milk you use must be organic, otherwise the milk is hijacked with all sorts of preservatives and stabilisers. If you think this is just claptrap, I urge you to buy both and compare. You'll notice a trippy purple hue in the non-organic milk, and shockingly less coconut content than the organic equivalent.
You will need:
Good blob of extra virgin coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 sweet potatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 can organic coconut milk
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional fire)
Squeeze of lime
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Gently warm a dollop of extra virgin coconut oil in a saucepan, add the diced onion, the diced sweet potatoes and the chopped garlic, and leave to sweat quietly while you prepare the remaining ingredients. This process sweetens the veg naturally, so long as you don't brown them.
Finely slice the delicate end of the lemongrass stalks, just a small bit, and set aside. Bash the fat, fibrous end with the base of a saucepan or heavy object. Of course, a pestle and mortar would be perfect, but not as cathartic as a flying saucepan after a long day in the office. Add the smashed stalks to the pot, and add the water or vegetable stock, whichever you are using. Bring to a gurgling boil, lower the heat and cover for 10 minutes until soft.
Remove the lemongrass stalks and puree the remaining mixture with coconut milk until it is delectably smooth. Tickle with cayenne pepper, if you're using it, to give delicious heat, and add a splash of lime for a sharp kick. Finally, dazzle with the thinly sliced lemongrass, the torn coriander leaves and your holiday photo album.