Sweet ‘Potato’ Sensation!

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Living close to Aljezur in Portugal’s Algarve, where the townsfolk have just celebrated the annual “Festival da Batata-Doce”, I felt the need to make my own contribution. The sweet potatoes grown in the region surrounding Aljezur are of such high quality that they have been officially recognised as a product with protected designation of origin. A bit like a Bordeaux fine wine or Cheddar cheese! Don’t be fooled into thinking that all sweet potatoes are the same! The sweet potatoes of the Aljezur region owe their particularly fine attributes to the sand layers in the soil together with underlying clay and the local climatic conditions. The festival celebrates the importance of the ‘batata-doce’ to the region with a variety of ‘gourmet’ recipes being produced, using this rather ugly looking tuber with a brown and purple skin, which can be baked, boiled or grilled and served as a sweet or savoury dish.

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Sweet potato (batata-doce) baked in it’s skin. Delicious with a knob of salty butter!

My recipe is based on using 70% sweet potatoes with 30% of a waxy white potato. Scientific research shows that sweet potatoes have great health benefits. The orange flesh is a good source of beta-carotene which has been shown to raise blood levels of vitamin A. They are also a good source of vitamin B6 which is linked to the prevention of heart attacks; and vitamin C, important in warding off cold and flu viruses. I have also read that it can produce collagen which helps to maintain youthful looking skin! I need all the help I can get, therefore, this is definitely a vegetable that I will be eating a lot more of!

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Sweet potatoes are delicious baked simply in their skins; but I have decided to create something a little different by combining some other flavours and textures in with the combination of potatoes. Lots of garlic gives it a good pungent aroma, finely chopped red peppers for colour and added sweetness, Spring onions for a touch of sharpness and bacon pieces for their salty and smokey contribution. The light crumble top gives texture and a salty bite! The combination, is simply sensational!

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Pan fry in olive oil, the garlic, torchino/smoked bacon, sweet red pepper and Spring onions. Season well.

Peel the sweet and waxy white potatoes (just about a kilo in total) and boil them in a pan of salted water until soft enough to mash with milk and butter. In the meantime, pan-fry, in olive oil, the sliced garlic (3 or 4 cloves),  sliced red peppers (1 pepper – deseeded), bacon pieces (100g) and 3 sliced Spring onions. When softened set aside until the potatoes are mashed and ready. Mix the pan-fried vegetables into the potato mash and place in an oven dish. Using a little over a half packet of ‘tuc’ biscuits, place these in a food bag and crush into crumb form. Mix with approximately 100g of butter to produce a ‘crumble’. Sprinkle the crumble over the potato mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 20/25 minutes. To accompany, I made some simple meatballs with a mixture of beef and pork and seasoned them with oregano, salt and pepper. Bom Apetite!

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Bom Apetite!!


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