I love potatoes. I realize this is quite the declaration, but it is true. Versatile. Comforting. Supremely accommodating. They are perfect any time of the day. Some days, I try to sneak them into every meal. If this does not happen, rest assured I get my daily fill. For me, after hours of writing, the end of the day is always capped off by a craving and indulgence in potato chips. I go through flavour and brand rotations – Plain. Rippled. Salt & Vinegar until my tongue can no longer tolerate the acidity. Sometimes, Jalapeno because I am hooked on heat.
Just as I go through phases with potatoes, I do so with yams. Years ago, they were showing up in regular meals. Yam oven fries seemed to be my go to food. I felt about yams as I feel about potatoes, an admiration. Then it subsided. Somewhere along the way, I fell away from yams.
It seemed the world had become obsessed with them. They were cropping up everywhere: mashed, baked, steamed, and grilled. There must have been a yam conspiracy! Every casual dining restaurant had yams on the menu. People preferred yam fries to regular ones. Maybe it was the sudden overindulgence or overexposure, but I was no longer enticed by the saccharine undertones – I just wanted my classic tuber.
Lately though, yams have made a comeback for me. The cold weather makes me want to hibernate, so to speak. I have an increased need to stay warm. I make excuses to stay in and want more foods that have a ‘stick to your ribs’ quality.
But to be fair it’s not quite yams I’ve fallen for: it’s actually a dish that combines both yams and sweet potatoes. Confused by which is which? My interpretation: yams have a brown exterior and vivid orange interior; sweet potatoes have a light brown exterior and yellowy white interior.
Both seem like they should be sinful. In reality, they are chocked full of amazing nutrients. But, for me the oh too sweet taste of yams on their own is balanced by the more starchy sweet potatoes. This combination allows me to take away most of the sweet and helps make this side dish more savory.
Here’s how it works. It could not be easier. Begin with washed yams and sweet potatoes. When you’ve washed, and removed any weird looking parts, DO NOT peel them. Yes, you read that correctly. Now, it’s time to cut them up. I am merciless when I am chopping. I hack the yams and sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and then into smaller pieces. Then coat the chunks with olive oil, salt, pepper, toasted spices. Off to a hot oven they go.
This dish will have you wanting seconds, maybe even thirds. Be sure to make an extra batch – I promise you will want more. Room temperature slices can be added to a salad of spinach or arugula and toasted walnuts. Or heat some up in a frying pan, making them extra crispy and add whisked eggs and cheese, for a fast breakfast or light lunch.
Savory Spiced Yams & Sweet Potatoes
4 medium yams
4 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a dry frying pan for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the seeds to a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind.
Put the chopped yams and sweet potatoes on a large, parchment lined, baking tray and toss in the oil, salt, black pepper, and toasted spice mixture. Roast for 30-35 minutes, until slightly charred and golden. Check with a fork for doneness.