Sweet dreams are made of this

Whether roasted, baked or in a soup, sweet pota­toes are sure to make you smile, says Diana Henry

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Sweet pota­toes are, in my mind, pota­toes of the sun. Halve one length­ways and you’re left with two or­ange smiles that make you think of heat and ex­otic desti­na­tions: the Caribbean, South Amer­ica. They’re cheer­ing be­cause they’re such great res­cuers. When I’ve noth­ing planned for din­ner, I’m re­lieved to find them in the veg­etable drawer. They’re a reg­u­lar Sun­day sup­per in my house, the smell of their caramelised juices ( bronze droplets of sugar gather at the pointed ends dur­ing bak­ing) mix­ing with the scent of dry­ing school uni­forms – a balm for Sun­day-night blues.

They bake in less than half the time it takes to cook a reg­u­lar potato, and their sweet flesh gives you some­thing to play off. I fill their melt­ing in­sides with chopped feta, olives and co­rian­der; salty, smoky chorizo and beefy fried mush­rooms; goat’s cheese and hazel­nuts and, the most ba­sic adorn­ment, Greek yo­gurt and spring onions. They’re per­fect for soup, too, cook­ing more quickly than car­rots, but with al­most as much sweet­ness. Their starch­i­ness pro­duces a vel­vety pot­ful.

I of­ten use sweet pota­toes as a sub­sti­tute for pump­kin, though the flavour is slightly dif­fer­ent; sweet pota­toes are quite chest­nutty. Be­fore pump­kins were so ubiq­ui­tous I filled tortel­loni with sweet-potato purée and tossed roasted chunks with tagli­atelle, ri­cotta and shav­ings of smoked cheese.

There are hun­dreds of va­ri­eties of sweet potato but they’re never la­belled in this coun­try. You can al­ways ask, if buy­ing from the green­gro­cer’s, what they’re like on the in­side. In (Chron­i­cle Books, £25), author Diane Mor­gan ex­plains that the two ba­sic types of sweet potato (sweet and moist, and drier and firmer) co-ex­ist, but that they’re both quite dif­fer­ent from yams (sweet pota­toes might look like African yams but are un­re­lated).

Many cooks add honey or maple syrup to sweet pota­toes. I ad­mit to roast­ing wedges tossed in a mix­ture of honey and lots of lime (to cut the sweet­ness), but really they don’t need sugar. I am an unashamed fan of Amer­i­can food but please, not baked sweet pota­toes smoth­ered in marshmallows. For sweet pota­toes bring me all the salty things.

Join Diana at an ex­clu­sive Tele­graph Din­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence at Aster restau­rant, London, on 22 March: en­joy a drinks re­cep­tion, five-course menu de­signed to ex­cite each of your senses, and Q&A with ex­ec­u­tive chef He­lena Puo­lakka. Find out more at tele­graph.co.uk/ dining­ex­pe­ri­ence or call 0800 542 5859

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