As with your average spud, the soft fluffy flesh of a sweet potato can be boiled, baked, mashed and roasted - but its pumpkin-like quality means it goes a lot further.
While there's a time and a place for a white, starchy spud, it can feel a bit dowdy compared to its exotic cousin. But despite being namesakes, the sweet potato is actually a root vegetable and not related to ordinary potatoes at all. Beneath its dusty brown shell lies an orange-white flesh that when cooked melts into a light fluff with a sugary, spicy taste. Beyond your usual baking, roasting and mashing techniques, sweet potatoes can be added to sweet and savoury dishes in the same way you would use pumpkins, squashes or yams. It's time to think outside the box when cooking this creamy sweet beauty.
Let's get one thing straight from the off - while sweet potato has a better reputation in the health stakes than regular potatoes, there's actually not much between the two. In terms of carbohydrate, calorie and fibre content, the two stand tantamount, however when it comes to vitamins C and A the sweet potato punches above its weight. So, basically, don't go thinking you can eat double portions under the premise that sweet potato is the 'slimmers' choice'…
Rostis, hash browns or sautéed potatoes provide the foundation for many a fine breakfast, but try replacing your normal tatties with roots. This Spanish one-pot hash recipe already contains sweet potatoes, but in many cases just do a simple swap and slightly adjust the cooking times. Replace the parsnip in these hash browns or this bubble and squeak.
The benefits of the sweet potato extend beyond savoury dishes - it can be used in desserts too. This recipe for leftover vegetable and orange cake with drizzle topping nicely uses up surplus roots. The folk of the southern states of the USA like using the spud in their soul-warming puddings too - they often swap pumpkin for sweet potato in Thanksgiving pie.
A shepherd's or cottage pie can err on the side of stodgy, so bring it out of the wintery doldrums by replacing the traditional potato topping with sweet potato mash. Just prepare it as you would ordinary mash and add extra flavouring if you like- garlic, citrus rind, herbs or even ginger - just make sure it complements your filling.
Use your loaf
A traditional dish of Madeira is 'bolo do caco' a flatbread made with mashed sweet potato. It imparts natural sweetness and moisture which leaves the bread really soft. Serve it hot from the oven or griddled with melting garlic butter.
Our site has plenty of sweet potato soup recipes - it makes an ideal way of padding out a blend without having to cram it with extra thickeners like barley or spelt. The root lends itself really well to Asian flavours like Thai aromatics, or Indian spices as it's such a versatile blank canvas but its sweetness also counteracts strong savoury notes.
On the subject of spice, sweet potato works really well in chunky pieces in a curry and provides bite and bulk to vegetarian dishes. You could also try replacing the squash in this Malaysian laksa noodle soup with smaller sweet potato cubes - just make sure you keep testing the potato for bite as it may take slightly longer to soften.
Have you experimented with sweet potato? Let us know the results. Or if you still need inspiration, take a look through our recipe collection.