Red sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are surprisingly good substitutes for gluten when we make crumpets, fairy cakes, gnocchi, ravioli and cookies. They add lightness, moisture and plasticity to dough. The recipes I have concocted are easy and cheap to prepare and add quality and workability to regular dry old rice flour. For vegans, the need for egg substitutes is also taken care of because the dough is stronger and holds its own in some of the recipes. It is always better to do without adding gum-based binders that don't really suit any of the blood types. Alternatives are tapioca or sago flour. They suit most of us and they are easier on the digestive system.

Sweet potatoes need to be taken seriously!

The red sweet potato is not a member of the deadly nightshade family with its aubergine, green pepper and tomato cousins. For blood type A*, this group of vegetables is a major cause of disruption and inflammation. So a little sweet potato can bring a lot of relief to a restricted diet. For vegans and the gluten-free freaks like me the sweet potato is both food and medicine. I have been chewing raw red sweet potato for many years and discovered how it can boost progesterone and beat out a hot flash! Even the shoots of the sweet potato are edible and can be added to spinach or stir fries. (But not too much - the Chinese used to make cortisone from the sweet potato shoots.) All sweet potatoes belong to the ipomea batatis family. They are ground creepers, close of kin to the morning-glory with its attractive blue flowers. You can grow them.

Sweet potato shoots

*Caution: sweet potato is not ideal for blood type A. They should limit their intake. Fortunately most of the members of the blood type A-secretor sub-group tolerate wheat and gluten better than the other blood types do. For them, it is beef and potatoes that are the biggest problem!

Prepare your sweet potato base and get cooking!

All my recipes use the sweet potato with the red skin. You can also use the white skinned variety, but not all varieties do as well as the red skinned one you see in these pictures. The sweet potato with orange flesh has more beta carotene – the precursor to vitamin A.

Boil up some water in a pot - about half full. Add a little salt and toss chunks of peeled sweet potato into it. Once cut, the flesh turns black very quickly, so this is how we prevent discolouration. You can also soak raw sweet potato in water with lemon juice or vitamin C to prevent oxidation. At this stage, I’m usually chewing a piece of the sweet potato raw. Some ladies don’t believe it helps with early menopausal hot flashes until they try it too! (Cooked sweet potato doesn’t; it is the juice that is absorbed under the tongue that does the trick.)

Anyway, the idea is to cook up the sweet potato flesh. It keeps for a few days in the fridge. You will also need a good supply of white rice flour. Do not use the coarse brown rice flour, it is too gritty. As a binder for some of the recipes you will need to hunt for the one best suited to your blood type: tapioca flour or sago flour or potato flour. (I am not keen to using any of the gums. So no xanthan, guar, gum Arabica or tragacanth. No glue or anything that gums up the insides and you won’t bloat up or get heartburn or indigestion.)

Sweet potato and banana fritters or crumpets are quick and easy

CrumpetsSweet potato patties

For the fritters, mash up a banana with twice the amount of cooked sweet potato flesh. Add a little rice flour to make it more manageable. Spread out discs of the mixture into a hot pan with a little olive oil and fry them on both sides. Top with mashed banana and slivers of preserved ginger or orange for a vegan treat. You can also serve these patties with a blob of cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt or grated cheese.

Sweet potato, cheddar and sesame patties

These delicious morsels make a great snack, especially when served hot with a sweet chilli sauce. Serve them with African meals, with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, especially as vegetarian Spanish tapas with olives and wedges of tomato. They are also nice the day after, to add to lunch boxes but no leftovers have ever survived in my house!

Combine a cup of cooked, peeled sweet potato flesh with ¼ cup of chopped onion and grated cheddar cheese. Knead it into smooth plastic dough using both your hands. Break up the mixture into small chunks. Roll them into balls then flatten each one and pat it down, one side at a time into a bowl of sesame seeds. Fry the patties on both sides in a pan with a little olive oil until they are crispy and golden brown. (Alternatively they can be deep-fried as little balls, similar to falafel. But I am not a fan of deep-frying because we should limit our exposure to trans-fatty acids.)

CrumpetsSweet potato and leek crumpets

The crumpets go one step further: add citrus pulp or rice flour to the mixture

Blend equal quantities of mashed sweet potato to citrus pulp. Orange pulp tastes the best. This mixture can be used as is to make crumpets. Changes you can make are to add a little rice flour and baking powder. You can add brown sugar or xylitol to sweeten it. Now try savoury crumpets with finely chopped leeks or spinach. Good cooks or contestants on Master Chef do not plod along with recipes. So here is an easy food challenge as the ingredients work well together and cooking blobs of dough in a pan is a no-brainer. Have a go! 

Light and fluffy fairy cakes or hot fruit puddings

Now try out some fairy cake mixtures and fruity desserts. When you are happy with the crumpet mixture, whisk an egg into the batter. The best way to cook this batter to see if you have a nice mixture is to microwave a tablespoon of it in a small ramekin for 1 minute. That's always my first test. From here one can sweeten it more or start concocting a great desert. Take a look at the pictures below to see what I mean! The mouth-watering result on the left took a minute and a half on full in the microwave. I gave it a swirl of honey and a blob of Greek yoghurt with some nuts. As you can see, the bottom of the dish has chopped up pear and raisins as a fruity base. Now see what you can do! You can also tinker around with orange pulp here.

Pear and sweet potatoFairy cakes or tarts

Baked sweet potato or oven roasted slices - try sweet and savoury

Bake thin slices of orange and white as well as red-skinned sweet potato in a medium oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Prepare them by first scrubbing the skins clean and slicing them. Rub on a bit of olive oil . For savoury slices, sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices like cumin, coriander and mustard. For the sweet ones, use cinnamon and then add a generous measure of xylitol or brown sugar to make a crispy topping. Serve the slices with feta cheese or cream, Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. They go well with mashed banana and tahini as vegan alternatives. Oven bake a whole banana in its jacket for the last 10 minutes for a delicious gooey but sugar-free sweet topping. It is best to make a long slit in the banana skin before placing it in a warm oven. The peel turns black.

sweet potato types

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Everybody loves gnocchi (potato dumplings) that usually contain some wheat. So here is a gluten-free recipe for gnocchi using rice and sweet potatoes - should anybody need to cut down on potatoes. The dough is very plastic and easy to roll into balls and other fancy shapes.

Sweet potato gnocchiSausages for gnocchi

This edible plaything is 100% gluten-free, sugar-free and of course, very vegan.

Something for the kids! This unique dough is fun to share with eager little helpers. Play dough that becomes a delicious dinner with a creamy sauce and vegetables! You can also bake items they make out of this dough in the oven. 10 minutes in a moderate oven should do the trick. For two generous plates of gnocchi you will need the following:

flour mix
  • 1 x 250 ml cup white rice flour
  • 1 x 250 ml cup of cooked sweet potato chunks - slightly heaped is better
  • 15 ml or a desert spoon of fine tapioca (manioc) flour. (Best for blood type A and O secretor. Sago flour is better for O non- secretors.)
  • 5 ml or a teaspoon of baking powder

Now for the fun!

Scrunch the potato into the flourBeautiful stuff

Place all these ingredients in a bowl and firmly knead them into a nice plastic dough ball. It works like magic! Divide this 6 into smaller pieces and roll each one into a sausage.

Chop up the dough sausages and give them a little shaping so they look like a roundish blob or dumpling. Dry them out for a while on a cloth spread onto a tray in the sun or for the frost-bitten countries, keep it in a warm place. Even a pre-heated oven to firm up before cooking. Meanwhile you can prepare a sauce or peel and cut up some vegetables to make soup or stew.

At this stage, the gnocchi can be frozen – spread out on a tray. When they are frozen hard, tip them into a plastic bag and keep for when you need them. You will want to make larger amounts, once you get the hang of this easy technique!

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot half full of water to the boil. Place them all in at once and simmer gently until they look glassy, kind of bouncy. Bite one and it should be chewy. If you cook them for too long they will become soggy. Tip the water and the gnocchi into a sieve to drain off the water.

To serve the gnocchi traditionally all you need is plenty of garlic butter and a few chopped herbs. Supply a generous quantity or parmesan cheese to sprinkle over them.

Other serving ideas include:

  • Traditional tomato pasta sauce – but not too much
  • A creamy cheesy white sauce and a smattering of parsley
  • Pesto sauce with garlic, basil, nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese
  • Variations with your new sweet potato “play dough”as baked cookies by the Kids

Add them to a minestrone soup. Fry chopped onions and leeks and fresh garlic, oregano and marjoram. Give then a stir and then add peas, slivers of carrots and cabbage and some fresh green beans. Add water and a vegetable stock cube and simmer for a few minutes. Then toss in some of the fresh or frozen gnocchi with chopped tomatoes or a little tomato paste.

Make Chinese dumplings with delicious fillings. This dough behaves very well with a filling such as a little cold leftover creamed spinach or mushrooms. If there is nothing else handy just use a chunk of onion or red pepper or a tiny button mushroom. If you have more time and imagination make a mixed filling with a chopped-up mixture of mushrooms, leeks, ginger, peppers and chilli.

Dumplings in the steamerSweet potato dumplings

Take a larger wad of the dough and roll it into a ball. Then press a dent into the middle and work it into a bowl shape. Pop in the filling and close it over to seal it up and make a ball. When your stuffed balls are all done, they can be steamed in a sieve over a pot of boiling water. If you have a Chinese basket steamer or a microwave steamer you will already know what to do. I place a small square of baking paper beneath each of the dumplings so they don’t stick to the base.

Serve them Chinese style with small bowl of sesame oil mixed with a sweet chilli sauce and a splash of soy sauce. Black bean paste gives a stronger taste, but let people add their own. It is useful to pour your soy sauce into a spray bottle. This prevents it from gushing onto everything and making the food too salty.

Let food be your fun as well as your medicine!