Three ways with sweet potato

Violet’s Emma Rutter shows us three meals that you can cook with the humble potato’s glamorous cousin

Emma Rutter

A carb and one of your five-a-day? An all-round winnerEmma Rutter

My love affair with the sweet potato began about fifteen years ago. I distinctly remember one Sunday lunch when, instead of the white mashed potato which usually accompanied our roast chicken and gravy, I found an orange mash on my plate. At first, I thought it was mashed carrot, but unlike mashed carrot, it wasn’t watery, and had a distinctive taste that captured my childish sweet tooth.

“What’s this, Mum?” I asked.

“That’s sweet potato, darling,” she replied.

And so it began.

However, it wasn’t an immediately smooth ride. There was, I believe, a period of time when it looked as if the sweet potato and I were destined to never be together. We stopped seeing each other, and even lost contact for a few years. Thankfully, this was only a phase, and we were reunited when I was about seventeen. When I moved to university last year, our relationship just kept getting better and better. We saw each other at least once a week – sometimes twice – and yet we never got bored of each other. The sweet potato is incredibly willing to adapt to whatever situation comes its way, and to my joy I discovered that it doesn’t demand complicated chef skills to make it taste good.

Case in point: our first recipe this week. I’m not really sure if I can actually call it a recipe, given that it involves one ingredient and around five minutes of cooking time. We’re going to bake a sweet potato in the microwave. Stab a few holes in it with a fork, and microwave on high for five minutes. Take it out, poke a fork in to see how soft it is, and microwave again for another two minutes if it isn’t cooked. Continue this last step until the fork slips through easily. You’re done!

“Sweet potatoes are really good for you: they’re full of fibre and vitamins, and they’re a carbohydrate that still counts as one of your five-a-day”

This is a great ‘base’ recipe, with lots of room for you to experiment. You can scrape it out of the skin and mash with some butter to accompany sausages/chicken/falafel, or chop it up to add to a salad – try the combinations below. If you’re in need of something really comforting, you can top it with cheese and baked beans like a normal baked potato, but don’t let it stop there. I like it with hummus and salad, and I’ve even heard that you can eat them with peanut butter and banana for breakfast.

"The sweet potato is incredibly willing to adapt to whatever situation comes its way, and to my joy I discovered that it doesn’t demand complicated chef skills to make it taste good"

Baked sweet potato and variations

Basic recipe: 1 sweet potato

1. Prick the potato about seven times with a fork. Microwave on high for five minutes. Check to see if a fork slips through easily; microwave for another two minutes and repeat until cooked.


Spinach leaves + falafel + sweet potato + hummus

Sautéed onion and red pepper + sweet potato

Cooked chicken + sweet potato + spinach leaves + mayonnaise

Couscous + sweet potato + chopped red pepper + cooked chicken

Puy lentils + sweet potato + spinach + feta/goats’ cheese

Next, we have sweet potato soup. This is quite possibly one of my favourite winter soups; it’s thick and creamy and has a light kick from the ginger and chilli, which makes it great for when you have a cold or are in need of an energy boost. Sweet potatoes are really good for you, too; they’re full of fibre and vitamins, and they’re a carbohydrate that still counts as one of your five-a-day (a win-win situation, as far as I’m concerned). All of the ingredients will keep in the cupboard for at least a week, and they will also work well in my previous recipe for dhal, so you have two options at your fingertips. Start off by sautéing onion with garlic and chopped ginger, then add cubed sweet potato and coconut milk and a dash of chilli flakes and let it simmer for twenty minutes or so. Blend it up with a hand blender and serve drizzled with olive oil and some nice bread rolls.

Sweet potato soup with ginger and chilli (serves 2)


1 onion, chopped

1 small thumbnail-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces

Sprinkling of chilli flakes

400ml coconut milk


1. Heat some oil in a pan, and fry the onion and ginger together for five minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the sweet potato and cook for two minutes. Sprinkle in the chilli flakes and add the coconut milk.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes or so until the sweet potato is tender. Blend with a hand-blender until smooth.

Our third recipe this week tastes good hot or cold. I’m calling it Spanish sweet potato stew (check out that alliteration), and, like the soup, it relies mainly on store cupboard ingredients. To be quite honest, I’m not quite sure how authentically ‘Spanish’ this stew is. Do sweet potatoes grow in Spain? And what about couscous? I’ll save my credit as a food writer by pointing out that this stew also includes red pepper (definitely part of the Mediterranean diet) and smoked paprika, which is sold everywhere in Spain in colourful metal tins. I’m aware that smoked paprika probably wasn’t on your list of top things to buy, but it’s more useful than you think: add it to tomato sauces for extra depth, or sprinkle it over potato wedges before baking. It tastes good on avocado toast, too. (Call me middle-class, if you want.) For a more authentically Spanish feel, add some chopped chorizo near the end, or throw in a handful of those tomatoes that have been languishing at the back of the fridge.

Spanish sweet potato stew (serves 4)

Sweet potato stew with some good Spanish vibesEmma Rutter


1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

1 – 2 sweet potatoes, depending on size

1 tin chopped tomatoes

a pinch of chilli flakes

a pinch of dried herbes de Provence


Mountain View

One-pot wonders

½ tsp smoked paprika, or more, to taste

1 can chickpeas, drained


1. Sauté the onion and garlic together for about five minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the sliced red pepper and the squash, and cook for another two minutes or so.

2. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, and the herbs, chilli flakes and smoked paprika. Put a lid on and leave to simmer for fifteen minutes, until the sweet potato and peppers are tender. Stir in a can of chickpeas just before eating. Serve with couscous, or crusty slices of bread