Give Me Five: Sweet potato falafel

This easy recipe is just one way to use the versatile, nutritious tuber

Sweet potato is perfect as a base for soups, stews, chillies and salads

Sweet potato is perfect as a base for soups, stews, chillies and salads

 

Sweet potatoes are even more versatile than their distant cousin, the regular potato, as they are suited to both sweet and savoury dishes.

The sweet potato is thought to have originated in Central or South America. Remnants of Peruvian sweet potato dating as far back as 8000 BC have been unearthed. In Papua New Guinea, sweet potatoes are part of the social ceremonies of marriage, birth, life and death. It’s also a money maker, allowing people to have what they need.

The wealth of Papuans is measured by their ownership of pigs and sweet potatoes. The more of each they have, the more their source of income increases and in turn creates jobs for the surrounding community. The sweet potato’s nutritional value cannot be overestimated: it represents 90 per cent of all calories consumed in the average daily diet in Papua New Guinea.

It’s a symbol of peace and is used to resolve problems; in intertribal war, when a sweet potato is raised another tribe will know that it signifies peace. The sweet potato seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence especially among the health-conscious. They are high in potassium and antioxidants and contain an enzyme that changes their starch into calorie-rich sugars when cooked, making them ideal for athletes. Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index, too, as they provide more sustainable energy.

A Californian sweet potato farmer is now producing vodka and other spirits from the orange tubers. Apparently the resulting drinks have “a hint of sweetness, a floral nose and a caramel sweet finish”.

Sweet potatoes are the perfect larder food. If handled gently, unwashed potatoes can store well for weeks or even months in a dry, cool place.

It’s the perfect vegetable to use as a base for soups, stews, chillies and salads. This week’s recipe is a type of falafel, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of chickpeas I’ve used cannellini beans, sweet potato and plenty of coriander. This mix is so versatile and really easy to put together. I sometimes use red kidney beans, chickpeas or butter beans. Other vegetables, including carrots, parsnips and butternut squash, can be used in place of the sweet potato.

I’ve shaped the mixture like falafels here, but it works too when made into burger patties or baked in a loaf shape. This is one of those dishes that no one will even realise is vegan. The linseed binds the mix, but you can use an egg in its place instead, making it nonvegan. I love these falafels stuffed inside a warm pitta bread with salad leaves and tzatziki, or as a burger with a soft sourdough bun and some thick slices of tomato. It is dense with nutrients and makes a hearty dinner or portable lunch.

I’ve suggested using smoked sweet paprika here, but garam masala is also great. Even ground cumin will do at a pinch.

Half an onion or a clove of garlic can also be added; just make sure the mixture doesn’t get too wet. Add your own touches to this mix and soon it will feature on your weekly menu, as it does in our house.

SWEET POTATO FALAFEL: MAKES ABOUT 20

The five ingredients 

  • 225g sweet potato
  • 280g cannellini beans
  • 1tbs linseed
  • 20g coriander
  • 85g oats

From the pantry

  • 1tsp smoked paprika or other spices
  • Sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Peel and dice the sweet potato. Place in the bowl of a food processor with the beans, linseed, chopped coriander and oats. Add the paprika and season generously with salt. Add two tablespoons of water, then combine the mix by pulsing on and off. You don’t want it to become a smooth paste, so clean down the sides of the bowl and ensure everything is mixed evenly. Or you can grate the sweet potato, mash the beans and mix everything in a bowl.

With wet hands, form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. Place on an oiled baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, until crunchy on the outside. Serve hot, drizzled with tahini, sriracha sauce or yoghurt.

  • Every Thursday, we’ll tweet the five ingredients from @lillyhiggins and @irishtimeslife so you can have them ready for Friday. Email givemefive@irishtimes.com with your suggestions for recipes
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