The trouble with cooking is that even the simplest of tasks can unexpectedly end up going wrong.
British cookery writer Delia Smith famously went to great lengths to instruct the nation on the finer points of boiling an egg. Even something so seemingly easy as dunking an object in hot water for a specified period of time has to be done correctly.
Many a slip between cup and lip, and all that.
Self confidence is highly important. As chef Fergus Henderson says – “Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave.”
Still, the devil’s in the details, and it’s failure to pay attention to those very details that often turns success into failure.
Many chefs don’t give the proverbial fig what a cook claims to be able to conjure up once she puts on whites. The acid test is the simple stuff.
Anthony Bourdain considers a cook competent if they can correctly roast a chicken.
For others it’s an omelette, or a steak nailed at medium rare.
I would humbly suggest the baking of sweet potatoes be added to that list.
The ideal result is a slightly crispy but not rock hard skin, and an inner that is soft, but still firm.
Here’s my more or less foolproof method of cooking them.
As always, treat your ingredients well, and they’ll respond in kind.
But show no fear. They’ll sense it, and you’re doomed from that instant on.
Baked Sweet Potato
- Sweet potatoes – see notes
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
- Wash your sweet potatoes, and then pat them dry. Firmly prick the topside of each sweet potato 5 or 6 times with a fork.
- Place the sweet potatoes directly on the rack in the middle of the oven. You’ll want to place a roasting pan directly under them on the floor of the oven to catch the juices that will come out of them while they cook.
- Bake the sweet potatoes for 1 hour. Test for done-ness with a bamboo skewer. You’re aiming for soft but firm – the skewer should slide easily through the sweet potato flesh, and in doing so leave a small, neat hole. If the hole looks as though it was created with a sawn off shotgun blast, they’re probably over done.
- When the sweet potatoes are done to your liking, remove them from the oven, and allow them to rest for a few minutes. Using a knife and fork, cut them open along their length, and gently open them up. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and dress with a good slug of olive oil. Serve.
The cooking time given here is for sweet potatoes that were 12cm / a little over 4 ½ inches in length. Adjust the cooking time accordingly for smaller / larger ones.