Black bean stuffed sweet potatoes with melted cheese, served with sour cream topping and sliced avocado - what a healthy and delicious vegetarian meal! Vegan, if you use dairy free cheese and cream.
Vegetarian? Oh yes, even though I’m not. It’s a thoroughly outdated concept that being vegetarian limits your options. There is so much plant food, plus an odd egg and a chunk of cheese, I really would not miss meat much if I decided to go down that way.
Are sweet potatoes still trendy?
Sweet potatoes were all the rage a few years ago – you couldn’t move for sweet potato fries in all the hipster cafes. Now? God knows. I have not been to a café, hipster or otherwise, for a year because of the pandemic. Things are on hold; we shall see when it passes.
So I reproduce hipster cafes at home, to give myself a taster of something different than my usual fodder and the recipe for loaded sweet potatoes with spiced black beans and a sprinkling of Cheddar sounds different enough for me to try.
This kind of dish is called ‘loaded sweet potatoes’ in America. ‘Loaded’ means filled or stuffed; it’s an American expression I like very much for the amusement value: ‘loaded nachos: pow! pow!’ Full metal jacket! Of the cartoon variety rather than real life, I rush to add.
Loaded potato skins, wedges, it all sounds amusing but comforting at the same time – because what on earth, when filled with cheese, isn’t comforting?
I didn’t realise how easy sweet potatoes were to bake, halved lengthwise. Much easier than ordinary potatoes, they soften nicely in the middle and marvellously char around the edges.
I could really have them just like that, baked with a dollop of butter melting in the centre, and a large pinch of salt flakes on top of the butter. But the recipe that inspired this dish, from NY Times Cooking, adds more to the veggie bliss: black beans which are a/ underused in the UK and b/ a great source of protein.
Easy comfort dish
This is a dish that cooks itself: the sweet potatoes take a longish while to bake but not as long as ordinary spuds. In the meantime I zing up the beans with spices, red pepper, garlic and tomato puree.
They can be as spicy or as mild as you wish them to be. The same goes for garlickiness and tomato levels. I like them quite hot – to offset the relative blandness of the sweet potatoes.
Variants of the recipe
Ordinary potato? Absolutely, only they will take longer to bake and I’d advise to bake them whole, with the skin pricked all over. There will be a need for more beans and more cheese with normal spuds: they are much drier and starchier (and more calorific!).
Different kind of beans will work as well though I like the colour contrast with the small black beans. I suppose red kidney ones will look good too.
The sour cream topping
It’s a homemade variety of Mexican crema which I am desperately in love with. Crema is a mix of double and soured cream, thickened and set with lemon or lime juice, seasoned with sea salt. Whenever I make a pot of it, I end up putting it on everything I’d otherwise put mayo on – or everything, full stop. With this dish, it’s a must to serve.