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How to learn to love any vegetable? Put it in your dessert

This week, it's been a proper sweet potato fest in my kitchen.

What makes this more surprising than it might otherwise be is that I really don't like sweet potatoes. They are my orange tuber nemesis! I think I just don't like sweet flavours in savory food - I like things like cinnamon and nutmeg, but I much prefer them in dessert to lunch.

Anyway, I always feel that if there's a particular vegetable that I don't like, the fault is mine, not the vegetable's. With that in mind, I embarked on a mission: Project I Will Love Sweet Potatoes At all costs.

My first foray into sweet potato world is age jaga, a Japanese stew (apparently originally inspired by English meat and potato stews) made from carrots, onions, potatoes, sugar snap peas and age tofu. I make it fairly regularly as it's the best thing you can make in a single pan with minimum effort - just veggies and tofu with water, soy sauce, and mirin, left to do its thing while you get on with something else.

Normally, the potato element comes from new potatoes, but I with my mission in mind, I got some sweet potatoes to keep the newies company. Here's what happened:

It looks weirdly meaty in the picture there, but it really didn't in real life. It did taste fabulous though. It's one of those dishes that's heavy with umami, and it can be really hard to stop yourself having just one more spoonful.

Traditionally, age jaga has brown sugar in it, but I left it out (see my no-sweet-tastes-in-savoury-food grumble above!) as the sweet potatoes did a far better job of bringing a hint of sweet, but also delivered a load more flavour to boot.

Part two of learning to love sweet potatoes involved a more wonky strategy: adding sweet potato to dessert. Yep, adding it to dessert.

I'd seen a few recipes for just such a crazy notion (including this one), so I used elements from each to make up my own brownies. I think I ended up with a mix of sweet potato puree, potato starch, chickpea flour, flax egg, cocoa powder, vegan chocolate chips, walnuts, and some other stuff I can't even remember.

Give the frankenrecipe, I was surprised how darn good it turned out in the end. It wasn't a traditional brownie by any means, more like a chocolate mousse cake, rich and fudgy.

I coated them with melted dark chocolate for goodness (it's pictured above in its nude state). It didn't taste hugely (in fact, at all) of sweet potatoes, but as a way to learn to love a vegetable, eating it covered in chocolate is pretty much up there with the best of them.

And summer has finally arrived in London. The weather is beautiful here, so I've been ditching hot food for big made up plates of salad using whatever happens to be in my fridge at the time.

First up, a sort of Middle Eastern arrangement. There's some pickled turnip (the pink cubes up top), falafel (not made by me), pitta bread (also store bought), baba ganoush (that was made by me), and Turkish everday beans and pumpkin, carrot and caraway salads, adapted from recipes in Veggiestan (adapted according to which of the ingredients I had at the time!)

I love meals made up of loads of little elements - you get to enjoy so many different tastes in one meal. Admittedly, it takes loads more effort to makes and means loads more washing up, but it's worth it. When aubergines are in season over here, I could - and do - eat it by the bucketful. 

My other plate of lots of different stuff is a bit more of a mish mash - vegan sausages, a bit of bread that was leftover, potato salad with red onion and tarragon, French carrot rapees salad, and sugar snaps in an avocado sauce. 

And yes, you guessed it, there's some more sweet potatoes there - a thick dip of sweet potatoes, celery, garlic, cardamom and cumin. While I'm not yet a sweet potato devotee, I'm beginning to come around to it. More orange is on the way!

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  1. I love those kind of meals too and sweet potatoes are my favouirte. I'm planning to make loads of salads for mixed plates this weekend and my first ever vegan quiche now I have an oven!

  2. I think I feel as you do about sweet potatoes. I only eat them because they are good for me or because they are on the table, whichever reason I find more compelling at the time. They are too sweet. I like them better when they are turned more savory like in the Japanese stew you made, or in sweet potato fries. However, I use sweet potatoes to make chocolate frosting, and it's excellent. No one would ever guess that the frosting contains sweet potatoes instead of heaps of fat.

  3. Sweet potatoes are delicious! So glad you are coming around. I don't think I've ever made them into a dessert, though I have baked with them into sweet potato biscuits, but yr concoction sounds pretty good!

  4. Ah, sweet potatoes are amazing, so I'm glad that you're giving them a fair shake. They're so versatile, as you've clearly proven here, so there's just got to be some way that everyone can enjoy them.

  5. I actually love sweet taters. Sweet potato pie is a well-loved dessert here in the American south; I include a recipe in my latest pie book. And we Americans love sweet potatoes during our Thanksgiving, swimming in brown sugar. We call it a side dish. But it's really dessert. #Busted!

  6. Your brownies look great - pity you can't remember everything you put in them! I haven't had too many sweets with besan flour but would love to try more. My least fave veggie is okra- not sure how that would go in a dessert :)

  7. Me either, Joey, I don’t like sweet potatoes or sweet flavors in savory foods as well as cinnamon/nutmeg as dessert, we do think alike! :) but sometimes sweet potatoes are pretty good in some exciting dishes like yours as long as it has something else with it. I would try the stew and cake though regardless of the ingredient. I’ve heard of this English-Japanese stew before and the age tofu, did you like it?

  8. I love sweet potato - tried Janet of the taste space's beer soaked sweet potato fries this week and was interested at how the beer took away some of the sweetness. Also love sweet potato and lentil soup. I really envy your plates of interesting food - if I only I had more energy but I am usually lazy and throw it all in a stew. And your brownies look gooily delicious

  9. I'm not that keen on sweet potatoes either but I do like them roasted with herbs and spices. Though I've never tried them in brownies and muffins, I am thinking of experimenting with another of my favourite veggies instead.

    I tried them in gluten free pitta breads once and they turned out delicious, with not a trace of sweet potato taste.

    BTW I found you on Rika's site

  10. Sweet potatoes aren't my most favorite vegetable but I do like them. Recently I just started to include them in a stew similar to yours. I had extra to use up but they're good in there. :-)

  11. I thought everyone loved sweet potatoes! And I like them exclusively in savory dishes :). I'm glad you've been giving them some chances. They're so good for you!

  12. My boyfriend is just like you, he doesn't like mixing sweet potatoes with savoury foods. He will only eat a tiny piece of it and then push it on my plate! The only way I can get him to eat sweet potatoes is in muffins! I made a fudgesicle with sweet potatoes as base, it was so fudgey and nice.
    My favourite way to eat sweet potato is simply baked in the oven. They taste somewhat like dates when they are baked.


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