I’m planning ahead a little here I know, but I reckon this warm sweet potato salad will really come into its own in dreary January and February. There is no way it can fail to bring a bit of cheer to the table with its sweet flavours and vibrant shades of purple, pinks and orange. Happily my plan should work; sweet potatoes, beetroot and red onion are all seasonally available now in the northern hemisphere and should be around for a quite a while yet.
This recipe has its roots in the moreish potato salad recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer book, made from baked potato, spring onion, olive oil and sumac. This autumnal version brings in sweet potatoes and beetroot and most importantly keeps the potato skins. Potato skins I love in all their chewy leathery-ness, and as your mother no doubt told you when you were growing up they are very good for you too (there you go, not every bit of advice in nutrition changes with the month!). Last but not least, for what is essentially an oven roasted vegetable dish this one requires surprisingly little oil.
Sweet potato has a lighter texture than a regular potato and has the advantage of being low GI to keep you fuller for longer. Orange and purple beetroots add an earthy note, more sweetness and a good helping of folate. The smattering of crushed sumac berries add a delicious tartness as well as more flecks of luminous pink, as if the beetroot and potato were not colourful enough already! Don’t worry too much if you don’t have sumac – the raw onion does a pretty good job on its own in providing a bit of contrast. If you are using a fresh orange for the juice (rather than a carton) you could chuck in a bit of finely grated orange zest in place of the sumac.
Serve this with whatever you fancy. The colours look particularly beautiful next to a slab of pale, coral salmon but I bet it would taste great with a couple of juicy bangers (especially the lemony Oxford sausages from our local butcher).
Edited to add – I was struggling to think of a good veggie protein source to go with this but the answer is obvious – tangy, salty feta!
Recipe for Beetroot, sumac and sweet potato salad
6 beetroot, any colour, washed but unpeeled
2 medium or large sweet potato
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sumac
Heat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas mark 4
Rub the olive oil into the skin of the beetroot. Loosely wrap up the beetroot in a tin foil parcel.
Place the foil parcel on a baking tray and bake for twenty minutes.
When the twenty minutes are up, pierce the sweet potato with a fork and place them on the baking tray next to the beetrot and bake both for about an additional forty minutes.
Check that both vegetables are done. The potatoes should be soft in the middle. The beetroot will be a little firmer but soft to the knife point all the way through. Leave either or both in the oven for a little longer if needed.
Open the foil parcel that contains the beetroot and let them cool just enough to handle.
Peel the skin from the beetroot and roughly chop.
Coarsely chop the sweet potato into larger, bite sized pieces, leaving the skin on.
Toss the sweet potato and beetroot with the onion, sumac and orange juice and serve quickly while the cooked ingredients are still hot.