I’ve written extensively about jacket-baked potatoes. Can you do the same with kumara (sweet potatoes)? Yes, you can, following the same rules, BUT the skin will not be as crunchy as it is on jacket-baked potatoes. However, it is still a great way to cook a kumara as dry-baking intensifies the flavour and it ensures the kumara keeps its nutrients. Kumara provides plenty of energy and dietary fibre, and when oven-baked it’ll have good amounts of Vitamin C. I’ve cooked golden skinned kumara in the picture, which are rich in beta-carotene. Purple and red-skinned varieties of kumara contain anthocyanins (antioxidant).
Prepare kumara as you would potatoes. Give them a good scrub, prick them all over with a skewer so they don’t explode as they cook (it happens, and it’s nasty), then, while they’re wet, roll them in flaky sea salt. Put the salt on a piece of paper towel because if you try to apply it with your fingers, the salt will stick to your fingers and that defeats the purpose. Use tongs to move them around. Don’t worry about how much salt sticks (or doesn’t stick; it won’t stick to a dry kumara though, so splash them under the cold tap). Then they go into a hot oven, 200°C (400°F), straight onto an oven rack. I put a baking tray (sheet) on the bottom of the oven because some salt will flake off and make a mess on the oven floor (a tray is easier to wipe). Bake for 50-60 minutes. You can cook kumara and potatoes together, but add the kumara to the oven after the potatoes have been in for about 30 minutes. Once you remove them from the oven, transfer to a wooden board which will keep them warm, and cut them open immediately with a sharp knife.
While they are good eaten with butter, salt and pepper, they also like something with a little tang and bite. Serve with crème fraiche, sour cream or labna (drained yoghurt) and add a squirt or a blob of your favourite chilli sauce or salsa. If you are a meat eater, top with a crispy rasher of bacon. Kumara also like coconut and work well with a ‘saucy’ coconut-based curry.