Over the years, sweet potatoes, their orange flesh glowing like a beacon, have begun to replace the trusty Maris Pipers as baked potato of choice. Curvaceous and thin-skinned, their soft interior cooks to a buttery fluff that is infinitely sweeter than a Maris Piper or King Edward. You either like the sugar hit or you dont. You can tame the sweetness with chilli and coriander or lime. Cheese works if it is white, sharp and salty, like feta or Ticklemore. Golden, fat-rich varieties much less so.
Earlier in the week I made a green butter for a baked sweet potato with spinach leaves and a seasoning of red chillies, salt and lime. This verdant butter would work with a floury white tattie, too, though I would swap the seasonings for a smidgeon of grated nutmeg and a handful of sautéed button mushrooms instead.
I also made mash this week, a reassuringly soft and velvety batch with a stirring of crème fraîche and plenty of black pepper. We ate it with leeks that we cooked on the griddle until their outside leaves sent up smoke signals. Desperate as I am for full-on spring cooking, these few last weeks of cold evenings do have their perks.
Sweet potato, spinach butter
Sweet potatoes sometimes split their thin skins as they bake, the sugary flesh leaking out and cooking to a crisp on the oven floor. I find lining the baking sheet with foil saves tiresome washing up.
sweet potatoes 4
spinach leaves 100g
butter 125g, at cool room temperature
spring onions 3
coriander leaves 10g
red chillies 1, large, mild
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Bake the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet for about 45-60 minutes, depending on their size, until they are tender. Wash the spinach leaves, discarding any very thick stalks. Pile the still-wet spinach leaves into a deep pan, add 100ml of water, then place over a moderate heat and cover tightly with a lid. Bring the water to the boil, shaking the pan from time to time, then lift the lid and turn the spinach over, cover and steam for a minute more.
When the leaves are bright and relaxed, drain in a colander, then squeeze out as much water as possible. (I find rinsing the spinach briefly under cold water helps cool it enough to handle.) Chop the leaves roughly and set aside in a small bowl.
Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Slice the spring onions into wafer thin rounds and add to the butter. Coarsely chop the coriander and the chilli, then add to the butter. Squeeze in the juice of the lime, add the chopped spinach and a generous pinch of salt, then combine everything together. You can keep this in the fridge until you need it.
When the potatoes are soft and fluffy inside, split them open and spoon in the spinach butter, letting it melt into the hot potato.