Sweet Potato Mash
Sweet potatoes, mashed. One time at my local farmer’s market I asked if their sweet potatoes were ready, and I actually did this every week just to get on their nerves (not really, I was just really craving fresh sweet potatoes) but one time one of the guys working there asked me “What’s wrong with regular potatoes?”
Huh? I never said I hated regular potatoes, they’re a completely different ingredient and I like them both. Sure sweet potatoes are technically more nutritious, but I really couldn’t care less. I’m only interested in the taste, and I like the taste of both potatoes, but each has their own place in different dishes.
Yes, sweet potatoes are very different from regular potatoes. For one thing, with sweet potato mash you don’t want to use milk; it just doesn’t absorb as well. Another thing; with sweet potato mash, you’re going to want to roast the potato(es) in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil instead of boiling them. This article is very useful when discussing the science of getting the best out of your sweet potato mash. My recipe just builds upon the recipe the article links to, as I have done some experimenting with different seasonings and flavours and determined my personal favourite combinations. You should do your own experimenting to see what works for you, but I shall post my report below anyway:
Fat: Butter > coconut oil > extra-virgin olive oil > lard. Yeah I tried with lard at one point, and it wasn’t that bad at all. All of the fats bring out another layer of flavour from the sweet potatoes that wasn’t there before, but the flavour of the fat is also added to the mash, so you have to pick the one with the flavour that you think would best compliment the flavour of sweet potatoes. For me, that’s either butter or coconut oil, since they both work really well in sweet things. Olive oil and lard, not so much.
Thyme: An excellent choice. I wrapped dried thyme leaves (fresh would probably be better, but I didn’t have them) in with the potato with the aluminum foil and baked in the oven for 2 hours at 300F, then I took the moisty roasty thyme leaves and threw them in with the mash. It came out smelling (and tasting!) delicious just like that! I was actually tempted to just eat it as is, but I resisted and waited until I added the butter and got out my other spices for the taste testing first.
Garlic powder: Another seasoning I think really complimented the sweet potatoes. It’s also a classic for regular mash, so I guess it was fated to work with it’s sweeter counterpart.
Nutmeg: Probably my favourite spice for sweet potato mash. The amount is personal preference; I’m pretty big on nutmeg and like it in my regular mash too, so I add in quite a bit. Freshly grated, of course.
Cayenne pepper: Do you still feel like your mash is missing something? Add a little shake of cayenne. It does wonders. Just don’t go overboard, since cayenne is really hot.
Rosemary: This did little to nothing for me. It adds a bit more of a savoury element to the mash, but overall it doesn’t make a huge difference.
Lemon juice: Add a squeeze or two. It works wonders, trust me.
Salt to taste of course, that’s always important. Just keep salting until it tastes good. Black pepper may not be as important, but it depends on the kind of flavour you’re aiming for. If you want it more smokey and peppery, add it, but if you want to keep it simple, creamy and smooth, leave it out. I usually leave it out.
Cinnamon: Nope. Dries out the mash causing it to lose its moist buttery goodness.
Honey and/or Maple Syrup: Entirely unnecessary, especially if you’ve slow-roasted the potato like I did. You can add in a little if you want, but sweet potatoes are already sweet, so you really don’t need to make them any sweeter if it’s a good potato you got there.
Keep in mind though; sweet potatoes cooked slowly and for a long time have their natural flavours intensified and are already incredibly delicious and don’t need very much seasoning at all, especially if served as a side.
350g sweet potato
15g (about 1 tbsp) butter or coconut oil
1 sprig of thyme or 1 tbsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp rosemary leaves
salt to taste
chives, scallions, or fresh herbs for garnish
1. Thoroughly wash sweet potatoes and wrap tightly in aluminum foil with fresh sprigs of thyme making sure it’s completely sealed. Place into oven preheated to 300F for 2 hours. You should be able to stab them with a toothpick without much resistance. If you have a pretty big sweet potato, feel free to cut it in half before roasting so you don’t end up with raw chunks of potato in the centre.
2. Take it out of the oven, let it cool. While it’s cooling, melt your butter in a small frying pan until the butter browns just a little bit. Unwrap your potato, add it to a bowl and then pour in your butter. If you’re using coconut oil, it’s not necessary to cook it first; just plop on your coconut oil and let it melt into the potato.
3. Mash the potato with a fork, removing the skin if you want to but I don’t because the skin is delicious.
4. Add your seasonings of choice, as well as the thyme you roasted in the oven with the potatoes, mix and fluff with fork. Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning before serving.
5. Garnish with scallions, chives or fresh herbs, optionally with honey or maple syrup, fold it in slightly and serve.