Silence of the yams


I love orange sweet potatoes (yams) and schlepped a huge bag of them home from the market recently. The first recipe this week, Lamb cutlets with roasted capsicums (bell peppers) and sweet potato (yam) mash is a favourite of mine. I’ve been making it for years, since way BC (before children). It sounds simple and it is, but it’s a bit special too as it’s drizzled with a beautiful sweet reduction, made from the capsicum’s pan juices, mingled with wine and white balsamic vinegar. The basil garnish is a must and really finishes it off. I can hardly believe it, but my hardy little basil plant is still popping out leaves in this disgusting weather! It deserves a medal. The boys love this dish too, although they’re not keen on capsicum so I fling them a few steamed vegies instead.
By roasting a huge pan of red capsicums and steaming a mountain of sweet potatoes (see the orange diamonds in the recipe for quantities), you can reserve some for a fab Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup. Its lovely and zingy and the colour is amazing – true vermillion. I had a bunch of girlfriends over for lunch recently and they were my guinea pigs. All the soup was polished off, so I’m guessing they liked it! We had it with fresh bread made my clever friend Bec. Her bread is better than any bought loaf. It’s in fact on a par with De Chirico’s and that’s high praise indeed. Thanks Bec.

Roasted capsicums

Lamb cutlets with sweet potato mash[Recipe 1] Lamb cutlets with roasted capsicums and sweet potato mash

¼ cup (60ml) olive oil, plus more for cooking lamb cutlets
6 large red capsicums (bell peppers), de-seeded, cut into eighths
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, peeled, halved
cup (125ml) white wine
¼ cup (60ml) white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

4 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
6 large orange sweet potatoes (kumara/yams), peeled, chopped
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter, chopped
100ml (3½ fl oz) milk, plus extra if required

10–12 lamb cutlets, frenched
Fresh basil leaves, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Pour the olive oil into a large baking dish. Add the red capsicum pieces and onions and toss to coat with the oil. Mix together the wine, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and pour over the vegetables. Season well. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir. Add the whole garlic cloves. Return to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes. Remove and set aside. Drain off pan juices into a small jug.
Reserve all the roast onion and all the roasted garlic cloves for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
You’ll need about 2–3 strips of roasted capsicum per person, to serve with the lamb cutlets.
Reserve the remaining roasted capsicum, about 6 cups, for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
Meanwhile, steam the sweet potatoes until tender, about 10–15 minutes. You’ll need ⅓ of the sweet potato (about 3½ cups) for the sweet potato mash. Add the butter and milk and mash well, until nice and creamy. Set aside.
Reserve the remaining ⅔ of steamed sweet potato, about 8 cups, for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
Quantities don’t need to be exact for the soup recipe so don’t worry too much about weighing things. See my notes below the soup recipe.
Heat the extra olive oil in a heavy-based frypan over a medium heat, and cook the lamb cutlets for 3 minutes each side. Set aside on a covered plate while you make the saucy reduction. Pour the reserved capsicum pan juices into the frypan, turn up the heat (not too high), and simmer, stirring continuously, until reduced by half. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t reduce to nothing! This should take about 1–2 minutes. Scrape all the lovely meaty bits into the juice.
Place a mound of sweet potato mash onto each serving plate, top with 2 or 3 lamb cutlets and a few pieces of roasted capsicum. Drizzle with the sweet reduced juices and scatter with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

  • You can make the roasted red capsicums in advance, and keep them warm in a very low oven. You can also make the sweet potato mash in advance and heat gently when required. 
  • Reserved roasted red capsicum, garlic cloves, red onion and steamed sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; so you can make the soup later.
  • I use a large bamboo steamer over a wok to steam my sweet potatoes, in two batches. You could also steam ⅓ of the sweet potato for the mash, and roast the remaining ⅔ for the soup at the same time as the red capsicums (on the shelf below).

Roasted red capsicum and sweet potato soup

[Recipe 2] Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup

4 reserved roasted red onions, chopped
4 reserved roasted garlic cloves, squeezed from their skins
6 cups reserved roasted red capsicum
8 cups reserved steamed sweet potato
2 large tomatoes, de-seeded, chopped
5–6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon harissa (North African chilli paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Place all reserved vegetables into a large bowl.
Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, harissa and cumin. Blend until completely smooth, with a stick blender or food processor. Season to taste.
Warm gently in a saucepan, over medium heat. Season.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Serve, topped with swirls of yoghurt (stir the yoghurt first to thin it, before swirling), and scattered with coriander.
Serves 8

  • Harissa (North African chilli paste) is available from specialist food stores, large supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakery, Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient, Oasis bakery or Manakish). Replace with a small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded and chopped, if unavailable.
  • You can adjust the consistency of the soup, by adding more or less stock. If you accidentally make it too thin, it can be thickened by adding and blending a 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzos); drained and rinsed. This is a handy trick to have up your sleeve for other soup-thinning disasters, such as watery pumpkin soup.
  • This soup recipe makes a huge quantity. I like to freeze it for weekday meals. You can easily halve the quantities of vegetables in the first recipe though, to make a smaller batch of soup.

13 thoughts on “Silence of the yams

  1. Hello everyone, taste tester here again. Let me tell you this soup is a cracker. Just the right amount of punch. Perfect with a crusty sourdough. I’m drooling just reliving the moment.

  2. Hi Sas
    I made the roasted capsium etc in preperation for soup and the reduction was delicious before I reduced it! I nearly died with sadness as it tasted SOOOO yummy but then I had it on our wok cooker and it was up WAY to high. I yelled out to my husband- “OMG this is so gorgeous” and then to my horror, before and beneath my very eyes, just after I had proclaimed my victory, it burnt within milliseconds (literally)- and it WAS RUINED!! AUGH!!!! I realised what was happening but did not have enough time to snatch it away from the cook top. I was so shocked that I yelled out “OHH NOO” which saw my husband running in (or rather hobbling as he has a dicky knee!) in alarm! So, you see, I used dark balsamic vinegar instead of the suggested white version and wondered if that added to the issue, but am thinking probably it was the very high heat “what did me in”…
    Yours despairingly,
    NB: The tiny bit I had of the sauce in my baking dish was the only evidence of how nice it was. I am thinking next time of not even reducing it as it was lovely as it was, but perhaps that would not do as it would be a bit thin
    Please help me!

    • Oh noooo Fran! What a conniption. The dark balsamic isn’t the problem as I’ve made this recipe many times with dark instead of white. Sounds like you definitely had the heat up too high – the wok burner is notorious for that, and best used for wokking only methinks. I’ll add a warning sentence into the recipe RE. not having the heat up too high. Your saucepan should have a nice heavy bottom too. Glad you liked the tiny bit of reduction!!!

      • I guess reduction by definition is tiny! Thanks- I feel I can tackle it again after a soothing nights sleep although I am moving onto the soup next- just going to buy some Harissa or a small red chilli after work tonight.
        Thanks for your guidance- it is sure not to be my last plea for help!

        • I made the soup and feasted on it for a couple of days (since old hubby was away all week), I even saved a little to add to a pasta sauce which I thought really added a tangy zip. The recipe has been printed out and added to my trusty soups section in my folder of meals I cook on a regular basis. This grim old winter really allows for some soup lovin’.

  3. i just learned some new words ‘capsicum’…and haloumi..i will have to try some haloumi!!! looks beautiful (and yammy, yes! just got a bunch of red peppers and will be roasting them today. your spiced sweet potato soup looks super flavorful and i love flavor for taste (;

  4. That sounds so yammy that I am going to do it myself- the sweet reduction sounds like my sort of heaven! MMMMMMMM!!!

  5. Ha! That’s your best post title yet! Funny that there’s also some lamb in the recipe. Whatever they’re called, I love sweet potatoes, and your mash and soup sound and look gorgeous. I also love them roasted with some halloumi added at the last, a la Nigella.

    • Thanks pinry! Oh yum – haloumi sounds like a fab addition to the capsicum/lamb combo. Actually, you could replace the lamb with haloumi for a vegie feast. Love salty cheeses with just about anything…

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