Cheesy sweet potato tray bake with bacon, peppers and tomatoes. Sweet potato wedges are seasoned with Creole spice, and the bacon is totally optional.
Sweet potatoes were the food du jour a few years ago, ubiquitous in hipster cafes and restaurants predominantly in the shape of fries (though more often baked than actually fried).
I was not immediately sold – surely they belonged with avocado, quinoa, kale and other even less palatable foods of the 2010s? I have not since changed my mind about kale of quinoa, but sweet potatoes have become my friends.
Are sweet potatoes healthier than white potatoes?
It is quite interesting that they should have gained such popularity in Europe as they are not that much better than white potatoes as far as nutrition is concerned. Marginally more calorific, they have higher carbohydrate content and over four times as much sugar. Ordinary spuds provide only a little less fibre per 100g and far more Vitamin C.
The only nutrients that sweet potatoes are richer in is Vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene, which is a valuable antioxidant essential in skin and eye health. So yes, as all root vegetables and plants in general, they are good for you but not all that superior over the common tatty.
Glowing complexion and 20/20 vision rather than weight loss is what you might hope to achieve if you include lots of sweet potatoes in your diet. That’s by no means to discourage anyone from eating sweet potatoes, since moderation is more important than what you consume.
Are yams the same as sweet potatoes?
Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes even though the latter are often called yams in North America. Yams are mostly grown and eaten in West Africa and are closer in looks and taste to ordinary potato than the sweet one. Incidentally, there has been a trend recently to spell sweetpotato as one word – to emphasise its distinctiveness.
I used to get confused about plantains as well, foolishly thinking they were somehow related to the tubers above. Foolishly, because plantains are simply cooking bananas. I thought the taste was reminiscent of potatoes, sweet or otherwise, and so it is a little, but the vegetable belongs to an entirely different family. That’s just a word of explanation in case some more of you are similar wallies in the matter and are embarrassed to ask.
Sweet potato tray bake - easy and satisfying
Back to my dish: sweet potato or sweetpotato, if you like, tray bake. The dish is sort of deconstructed baked sweetpotatoes with a lively topping of peppers, tomatoes, bacon and cheese – all dream toppings for spuds.
It takes just under an hour to make from scratch. The topping is prepared while sweetpotato wedges are baking in the oven. The tray returns briefly to the oven at the end for the essential cheese melt.
There’s no sight better than bubbling cheese over a colourful tray of vegetables, with a small addition of crisp pancetta which of course must be left out for a vegetarian option. Vegans need to sprinkle the dish with vegan Cheddar which I’m sure is widely available these days.
I like to season the sweetpotatoes with gutsy Cajun or Creole spice, the recipe for which can be found on the Prawn Creole page. The wedges sit in a bowl for a while to absorb the flavour better – it’s a complete fallacy that only meat needs marinating.
But take care when you turn them out onto a baking tray and don’t pour out the oil if you used generous amount to rub the wedges with – they will turn crispier on a drier tray, funnily enough.
What toppings variations?
I can easily see this simple dish becoming a staple dinner in my house. Let’s be honest: there’s always some cheese in the fridge; and the topping can vary as you (and the fridge contents) please.
Mushrooms will work well, chunks of chorizo or any native sausage will too, and you could do worse than top the sweetpotatoes with some chilli con carne or tuna melt. After all, it’s just a deconstructed jacket spud!