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Sweetness and light

June 10, 2010

With all the slow cooking and braising we’ve been doing lately, the question of accompaniments arises. It’s easy to tire of couscous, polenta can be tricky and for some reason I’ve never been a big fan of plain rice with non-Asian food. Which is where Skye Gyngell’s sweet potato mash comes in.

You may know of Gyngell, the Australian chef whose Petersham Nurseries Cafe at Richmond in south-west London is now internationally famous. It is a beautiful place to visit when you’re next there – even if you discover, as I did, that the cafe is closed because Gyngell is back in Australia cooking at Sean’s Panaroma! But the nursery’s inexpensive tea house is lovely too, and the whole place is infused with that warm, gentle green softness that only comes with an English summer.

To get there from central London you just jump on a train to Richmond and then take a leisurely walk along the Thames. It seems so peaceful, and yet of course I kept thinking of how much Virginia Woolf is said to have hated living in Richmond (“if it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death,” Michael Cunningham has her say in The Hours), and of the river, and the stones in her pockets …

Hmm, how to segue into sweet potato from here? Um … it makes life worth living?

Well, if made with  love, it certainly might help.

This mash recipe is from Gyngell’s book A Year In My Kitchen and is a very classy side dish. Its main claim to fame is Gyngell’s secret-weapon combo of tamari and maple syrup, which give many of her dishes their mysterious richness of flavour.

Add to that the single chilli in the boiling water, and you have a lovely warmth and complexity in what could otherwise be a rather dull side dish. Give it a shot. It’s especially good with Middle-Eastern style braises or tagines.

And buy the book – it is one of my favourites.

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 small red chilli, halved
  • Small bunch coriander, washed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Peel sweet potato and cut into large chunks. Cover with salted cold water and add the chilli. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer  for about 15 minutes or till soft. Drain.
  2. Blend potato, chilli and all remaining ingredients in a food processor, pureeing till very smooth. Adjust seasoning to your liking – the final result, Gyngell says, should be ‘a deep, sweet, hot, velvety taste’.

4 comments

  1. Shuckin’, I love sweet potato everything, including mash. It’s such a versatile vegie. This recipe actually shares several key ingredients with one of my all-time favourite soups, first sampled at a friend’s place in, coincidentally, London (Hammersmith, just below the bridge and overlooking the river). It is spicy and herby and rich and altogether a taste sensation, and at the time I wrote the recipe in the back of an address book I can no longer find. What was I thinking…?! Anyway, if I ever track it down, I promise to share, although I’d wager you could probably take Gyngell’s base recipe and make that soup or a decent approximation happen fairly easily. Might try it myself.


  2. Yum, gorgeous pic Charlotte. I can almost taste it.


  3. […] roasted vegetable stock, as I described ages ago here. This time though, I took a leaf out of Skye Gyngell’s book – her secret flavour weapons often include tamari sauce and maple syrup, so I added a […]


  4. […] Gyngell, you will recall, is the author of this fabulous book and one of my favourite cookery writers. She adds this relish to several things including the […]



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