It’s as if sweet potatoes and oranges were cultivated to be together as they make the perfect flavour pairing ever. I’m talking specifically about the orange-fleshed sweet potato, which have a far nicer taste and firmer texture than their white-fleshed counterparts that I find too sweet and watery. In this recipe, I will guide you on how to make healthier oven roasted ‘fries’ and finish them off with a vibrant orange salt.
I fell in love with orange sweet potatoes or yams, as they are known in America when I travelled to the USA many years ago. I was 22 and my sister was 24 and we bought a car and drove across the country via the Southern Route. We camped or stayed in youth hostels for our entire trip, cooking most of our meals ourselves. My sister is a vegetarian so all the meals we made were plant-based and a good roasted yam was a highlight. We would cook them wrapped in foil in a fire when an oven wasn’t handy and topped them off with butter, grated Cheddar and salad on the side. This is still my ultimate way to eat them. At that time – and for many years after, the only sweet potato you could find in South Africa was the pink skinned white-fleshed variety and I was never such a fan.
On subsequent trips to the USA I would sneak a few yams into my luggage to bring home, and two years ago I brought home purple sweet potatoes and made these shoestring fries with garlic and rosemary). I was thrilled when we started seeing them on shelves here a few years ago. Initially quite sporadically but now they are regularly available. I absolutely adore orange with them and made this recipe with spiralised sweet potatoes and chorizo, which was delicious.
How to make oven sweet potato ‘fries’:
Turn your oven up to 220 C /425 F . They need to heat to extract the moisture and crisp up a bit. Sweet potatoes don’t crisp up as easily as regular potatoes so the high heat helps in this regard. I also find it best to roast than in a fan oven, but a conventional oven will do fine on the middle shelf.
Don’t overcrowd the pan when you roasting, as they will give off too much steam and soften. Allow some space between the fries to brown up.
Don’t coat them in too much olive oil. You want just enough so they don’t stick but not too much that the oils starts pooling in the tray. This is an intuition thing, and rather err on the side of caution and under coat vs. over coat and land up with a soggy mound of oily sweet potatoes that don’t resemble a chip.
If they are a bit soft, you can spread them on a baking cooling rack placed on a baking tray and place in the oven on a very low temp for 10 – 20 minutes to dry out.
So to make these, lightly toss your sweet potato fries in olive oil and then spread them out on a baking sheet. Make in batches if necessary or if you have a fan oven, load more than one tray. Roast for 30 – 35 minutes and until golden. You could turn them over once during the roasting time, but I find the tops and bottoms get nice and golden without much meddling.
To make the orange salt, add good quality sea salt flakes such as Maldon to a pestle and mortar and grate the zest of an orange in there. It is quite potent, so work on a ration of 3: 1 salt to zest. For a small quantity of salt, you might only need to use the zest from a quarter to a half an orange. Grind this up until you have a yellow tinged salt blend that will make your sweet potato fries pop with flavour. Thyme is another great flavour that works well with this salt, so you could throw a few leaves in the mix to add earthy herbaceousness. You can also roast the sweet potatoes with a few sprigs of thyme.
Other sweet potato recipes I love
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