Roasting sweet potatoes really brings out their natural sweetness and almost caramelizes them and the addition of orange juice, mandarin slices and fresh rosemary works with the flavor of the sweet potatoes to create a subtle but very tasty dish. It's great served warm or cold the next day. It's really filling too, I'll often have just this and a big salad.
In New Zealand, sweet potatoes are commonly called kumara, and they were brought here by the first settlers, the Maori for whom they were an important staple crop. They come in a variety of different colors, which all have slightly different flavors, but any kind can be used for this recipe.
First of all, because there seems to be some confusion between sweet potatoes, kumaras and yams I want to show you what I'm using. These are called kumara in New Zealand, which is the Maori word for sweet potato. And they are, in fact, sweet potatoes, but I've never heard them referred to as sweet potatoes here. So, to hopefully avoid any confusion, here's what a sweet potato (kumara) looks like (there is some variation in color between different varieties, at least in New Zealand.
This is a really easy recipe to adjust for different volumes, depending on how much you want to make. It keeps really well in the fridge, and it's delicious cold as well, so you might want to make more than you need for one meal. As a rule of thumb, you want to start with about twice as much as you need, because it will cook down to about half the amount.
4 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons organic tamari
1-2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
2 mandarins, peeled and separated into slices
1 orange or tangelo, juiced
handful of walnut pieces
Preheat oven to 200 C. Add the olive oil to a shallow baking dish and make sure it's evenly spread around to prevent the sweet potato from sticking.
Cut off the pointy ends of the sweet potatoes and peel. Chop into cubes and put into the baking dish. The bigger the pieces the longer it will take to cook, so I normally cut them into pieces 1cm (3/4 inch) square. I usually put the baking dish into the oven at this point, even if it's not up to temperature, while I chop and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Strip the rosemary leaves from the stem and chop them as finely as you can. You want about 2 tablespoons of very finely chopped fresh rosemary. Sprinkle on top of the sweet potato.
Peel 2 cloves of garlic and press through a garlic press or mince and add to the sweet potato mix, along with the cinnamon, sea salt, honey are agave syrup and tamari. Toss everything together so the oil and spices evenly coat all the pieces of sweet potato. If you're using honey and it's quite thick it's easier if you add it after the sweet potato has been in the oven for 15-20 minutes and started to heat up. The heat will liquify the honey and make it easier to mix in.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until sweet potato is soft, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and make sure everything gets cooked evenly. The cooking time may vary depending on how deep your mixture is and how large the pieces of sweet potato are.
When the sweet potato is soft, add the orange or tangelo juice (use tangelo juice if you can, the flavor is really beautiful) and mix thoroughly. Put the dish back in and turn the grill on high to brown and caramelize the top. Cook another 10-15 minutes, being careful to watch and stir frequently enough that it doesn't burn.
Remove from oven, toss in mandarin slices and walnut pieces and toss everything a bit to make sure they are evenly distributed. Serve and enjoy!
If you like that sweet, sticky, caramelized flavor just put it under the grill to brown it after it's finished roasting. This has such a beautiful, naturally sweet flavor it's almost like a dessert.