Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Inevitable Sweet Potato Thingie

NAME: _The Inevitable Sweet Potato Thingie

A big orange sweet potato or two
6 eggs (see NOTES)
teaspoon of dijon mustard
salt, pepper
a few tablespoons of milk
teaspoon or two of lemon juice
chicken stock cube crumbled and dissolved in part of the milk.
Assorted goodies such as:
  • Cream cheese (room temperature)
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado (slice into 1/4" (half cm) slices)
  • Capers (if you like)
  • Smoked salmon slices (if you like)
  • Cous cous (more for a dinner style meal than breakfast)
  • Haloumi cheese sliced thick and crumbled.
  • Pickles? Up to you
  • etc

The sweet potato needs to be sliced lengthways into 1/4" (half cm) thick slices. Much thicker and they won't cook through, thinner and they'll collapse. Start your first two slices off in the toaster on the longest (highest) setting. You'll pretty much have to do each set of slices twice at that setting, so a four slice toaster would be magic. Our toaster has six mnutes at the top of the dial, so twelve minutes for every two slices. Sheesh. Once the slices are done, set them in a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile start some water simmering, add a bit of salt and a bit of vinegar. Have a bowl half full of warm water to hand. Break each of four eggs into a wire strainer, which will drain the thin egg white off them. Save the whites in a small mixing bowl. As you strain each egg and leave just a yolk surrounded by the glutinous white, float them gently into your just simmering water. Gently stir the water to stop the eggs sticking to the bottom.

Reduce the heat so it remains only just simmering, deal with all four eggs, and as each egg gets to about three and a half minutes in the water, lift it out with a slotted spoon and float it in the bowl of warm water. That stops it from continuing to cook, and also prevents it drying out. You can then leave the eggs in that bowl for up to a day, so now the pressure's off for those, and you can make the savoury egg custard and other stuff. Leave the water simmering.

Break the two remaining eggs into the bowl with the thin egg whites. Waste not, want not. Add the teaspoon of mustard, the milk with the chicken stock cube, and any dried powdered herbs (basil is delish in this) you may want, whisk briskly for about five minutes, adding a bit more milk if it seems too thick. You want something like normal dairy milk cream, not as stiff as double or whipping cream.

Float the bowl in the simmering water and put a lid on it. It'll take about ten to fifteen minutes of simmering to get to the right level of done-ness. Once it's set all the way through to the middle, use tongs or a pot mitt to lift the bowl out and set it aside.

Are all the sweet potato slices done and cooling off? Then you're done, from here on in it's assembly.

Suggestions for topping slices:
  • Cream cheese, avocado slices, a poached egg or two
  • Cream cheese, smoked salmon, a few capers
  • Slices of the egg custard topped with slices of tomato, sprinkled with fresh shredded mint
  • Lay two slices of potato on a plate, cover with roast vegetable slices, crumbled haloumi. Add a pile of couscous on one slice, two poached eggs on the other, add some Greek yoghurt, fresh shredded mint leaves. 
  • Much as the last suggestion, but top with cooked rice, a few slices of chicken breast and a few shredded vegetables cooked Asian style, and fried eggs or some of that egg custard for a nice fusion dinner, drizzled with thick soya sauce and sriracha if you like some pizzaz. 
  • Sliced and shredded pickles are okay for all these meal ideas, too. Also drizzles of olive oil, paprika oil. Olives are good. 

Everyone's jumped on this bandwagon now, so I thought we should give it a go. Made it for breakfast, but this set of assembly instructions would also be suited for dinner. Using this only as a substitute for toast kind of misses the point - sweet potato grows well in all sorts of soils and climates, and is a very nutritious food that also just happens to be delicious.

Look at Mediterranean recipes for inspiration as to what flavours and ingredients would go well with this. Even a savoury lamb or goat mince and a fetta would work on top of these toasted slices.

The fresher the eggs are, the better your poached eggs will turn out. I'm indebted to Kenji Lopez-Alt for putting his wire strainer method online at Serious Eats, and this is how I'll be making all my poachies from now on. Which leads me to the

I luckily have a selection of strainers both big and little with various types of mesh, and I found that a smaller strainer was best, but with reasonably open mesh. (As in, I can get a standard round toothpick point about halfway into a mesh hole.) Any more open and all the egg just oozes through, and with too fine a mesh, it took too long for even thinner older eggs to separate out. You need to be putting the eggs into the simmering water pretty close together, otherwise you lose track and end up with some under and some over cooked.

I tried the grill (broiler) and the toaster, and the toaster method is superior, slices come out a nicer texture, colour, and more consistent from one batch to the next.

The grill tended to leave the underside soggy, then when I turned the slices over, the lovely grilled top (which was now underneath) went soggy.

I haven't tried oven roasting these slices at 200C yet, but I don't think that'd end happily either.

You're aiming for a slice that's *just* cooked through, has some browning and blistering on the outside, and the outside needs to be a bit dry so the slices don't collapse into mush.

Frying in a very hot and only lightly oiled pan may also work. I haven't tried any of these methods with olive oil brushed on the slices, that may very well be a game-changer. Experiment!


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