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Sweet… Sweet Potatoes!

Sweet potatoes, or yams, are a wonderfully versatile vegetable and an important nutritional component of the meat-free diet. You’ll find them in dishes all over the world, prepared in hundreds of different ways - and always delicious! Here are some inspired treats for hungry vegans…. 

Just Baked
Choose even-sized young sweet potatoes (the red skin, white-fleshed yams have a much nicer flavour than their orange-fleshed cousins) checking for smooth skin condition.  Scrub them well and place on the grid of a hot oven - 200 o C. When the flesh is soft, they are done. Remove from the oven and place a couple on a plate which is piled with a crispy, dressed salad. Split down the middle, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle Himalayan salt, mash lightly with a fork and enjoy while still hot.  

Now Make Gnocchi 
Bake a batch of sweet potatoes and reserve some to make a delicious gnocci. You will need 3 cups of the baked flesh, scraped off the skin and mashed till smooth. Add 1 cup of flour of your choice and season the mixture with salt and pepper; a little nutmeg; and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh chives. Form into a dough, adding more flour if necessary. Then roll into a long sausage and cut into small bite-sized pieces. Lower the gnocchi pieces into a large pan of boiling water - they will float to the top when cooked. Drain them, toss in olive oil and salt lightly. Reserve. 

To make a creamy sauce, simply place 1 cup of soaked cashew nuts in the blender with 1 cup of water; 10 fresh sage leaves;1 teaspoon of vegan stock powder; and 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes. Blend till smooth. Heat the mixture in a saucepan and then pour over the gnocchi. Top with quartered baby roma tomatoes and some chopped watercress, season lightly and then drizzle olive oil over the lot. Yum! 

Sweet Potato Lasagna
While we are in Italy, let’s make sweet potato lasagna. You will need 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and sliced into even-sized rounds. Steam them but remove from the heat before they are totally cooked. Reserve. Make a tomato sauce using 1 red onion; some garlic; a can of chopped tomatoes; and a fistful of fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper and mixed Italian herbs, as well as a dash of brown sugar. Cook until flavours are integrated and the sauce has thickened to a good pouring consistency. Set aside. 

To make a super easy ‘ricotta’, mash up a block of fresh tofu (available from Chinese supermarkets and some greengrocers) with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice; 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes; 1 teaspoon of miso; salt and pepper. Now you are ready to assemble your dish. 

Pour a little olive oil into an oven-proof dish and brush all over. Place a layer of sweet potato rounds, then a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of tofu ‘ricotta’ and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing up with the potatoes. Grind up 1/2 cup of raw cashews or sunflower seeds, season with salt and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes. This makes a simple ‘parmesan’. Sprinkle on top of your lasagna, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and bake at 180 o C for 30 minutes; Push a knife through the lasagna to make sure the potatoes are totally cooked then remove foil and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the ‘parmesan’ is golden. 
Serve with green salad, simply dressed. 

Sweet Potato Pudding 
Clean and peel 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cut in cubes and place in a pot. Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar and a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, chopped; and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Simmer in 1 cup of water until tender, then blend up making sure that the mixture is a smooth pouring puree. Put back in the pot. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of tapioca flour in 1/2 cup of water and when puree is hot stir in the tapioca flour. Keep stirring until you have a nice thick glutinous mixture. Pour into glass bowls, drizzle with coconut cream and add a few chopped walnuts or pecans on top. Heavenly!

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