It’s a grey and very rainy day, “bucketing it down” as we say in England, and I’ve lost that lovely feeling that we were heading into summer! This sweet potato curry is normally a winter warmer but it’s a delicious comfort food, really easy to make and thick, creamy and still full of fresh ingredients. Somehow it feels appropriate and right for the eating (and sharing) today.
Recently I have been wandering and wondering down memory lanes, remembering some of my food experiences growing up in the Middle East.
In the winter the street vendors would change the food they sold – there was a little bit of seasonal change in North Africa. I ate my first corn-on-the-cob from a street vender – I was amazed that it was so flavoursome, sweet and juicy under the charring. Nothing like the anaemic, watery sweetcorn I’d been served as part of school dinners during the two terms I went to school in Bristol. There, I’d been a resident of “The Slow Table” for kids who were reluctant to eat the ‘dinners’ they were served. I discovered my appetite in North Africa as suddenly food was flavoursome, fresh, organic and not boiled to smithereens! I remember sucking the juice from freshly macheted sugar canes. I remember eating my first sweet potato, wrapped in charred foil from a street vendor one winter. It was a very basic, unadulterated baked sweet potato – but I struggled to believe that this hot, sweet, orange flesh shared a name with the normal white potatoes I was used to eating. My mum disliked sweet potatoes so we didn’t have them at home.
This curry is a celebration of that first sweet potato experience, it’s made with some of my favourite North African ingredients. It’s really thick and creamy, with wonderful North African spices – both ground and whole. The coconut milk mutes and mellows the sweetness of the sweet potato and the lentils give it an depth and earthiness. I love the textures in this curry too, the softness of the sweet potato and the grain of the lentils, the little bursts of cumin when you bite into a seed. I stir in a load of spinach once the curry is cooked and off the heat, for a fresh green, iron-rich contrast. It works really well. If you’re a coriander-fan bung a load of fresh leaves over the top too.
I made this curry for my parents recently and my mum was surprised as she really enjoyed it, (she’s still not a fan of sweet-potato) – she even asked for the recipe! I think all the other ingredients really compliment the sweet potato so it’s flavour doesn’t dominate or overwhelm them. I hope you enjoy it too and that it will bring some North African sunshine into your kitchen this grey, rainy day!
We love ours with rice, cooked with cloves and cardamon pods – there is a recipe here for basmati rice. I tend to use brown rice now – which takes about twice as long to cook but is deliciously nutty and flavoursome. But it’s the same principle – rinsing the rice, frying it in oil with cloves and cardamon before adding the boiling water. We’ve also enjoyed this sweet potato curry with home-made pittas, and gluten-free gram-flour & fresh coriander chapatis. Let us know how you eat yours!