Thursday, August 30, 2012

a country in mourning and reinventing the sweet potato souffle

If you pay attention to international news, it might have come to your attention that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia passed away last week.  You might be asking yourself, "What's the connection with sweet potato souffle?"  I'll explain.

Last week when we heard that Meles Zenawi had passed away, I immediately made a few small preparations for an emergency evacuation in case the political environment became hostile in Addis Ababa.  One such preparation was to defrost the ham I was saving and cook it.  If we had to leave suddenly, it would have upset me to leave that honey glazed ham behind uneaten.  The meal needed sides.  Are you following my train of thought?  Prime Minister passes away. I panic and bake ham.  Ham needs to be accompanied with sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and buttery oats.  This is how my warped mind jumped from one completely unrelated, yet devastating event to this recipe.  It's the musings of a crazy cook, I admit it.

Thankfully, there is no reason to evacuate.  Ethiopia is a very sad mournful place right now but things are stable.  It's taught me a little lesson about how short life is and how we can't be certain how long we will have in this country we have come to love so much.  One shouldn't save ham.  It's all very philosophical.

There are no yams in Ethiopia.  Sweet potatoes are the purple skinned white flesh variety.  They taste wonderful but don't have that nice orange color.  I have a friend here who made a sweet potato dish and added food coloring to the sweet potatoes to make them pinkish.
I made a key discovery during my panicked-ham preparations.  Turning the dish into a sweet potato with carrot souffle provides the color, flavor and more vegetable healthy goodness than a traditional sweet potato concoction.  I'm not sure I'll go back to the only sweet potato version, even if do I have access to yams some day.

The best part: my kids never knew the difference!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Souffle
3 large sweet potatoes
3 medium carrots
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
large pinch of salt

Boil the sweet potatoes and carrots in water until soft for mashing.  Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and add 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Blend until smooth.  Add milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Blend until smooth and combined.  Pour the mixture in a oven safe baking dish.

Souffle topping
1 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup butter melted
pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
1/2 cup walnuts chopped finely

Combine all the ingredients and sprinkle on top of the souffle.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Notes: I removed the butter from the sweet potato/carrot mixture because it just isn't necessary and I wanted to make a healthier version of my traditional sweet potato souffle.  I didn't miss the butter.  If you really need that buttery taste, I'd recommend 1/4 cup of melted butter at most.

The carrots provide the nice orange color and add sweetness to the souffle.  The texture is slightly different because the carrots aren't as starchy as the sweet potatoes but my husband only noticed after I told him I had added carrots and the girls didn't notice at all.  Score!
Ethiopia is honoring their late leader this week and weekend with candle light vigils and a burial on Sunday.  The streets are closed along with school on Friday and traffic is a mess.  The entire country is in mourning.  I've listened to enough sad instrumental music on the radio in the car to last me through a lifetime of funerals.  I hope the sadness passes soon.  I wish I could feed everyone ham...and souffle.  


Anonymous said...

I love this post, it's poignant, funny, and a great recipe all in one! I feel like I would probably go through a similar thought process. Love the idea of using carrots with the purple potatoes.

Melinda Renee said...

I've been thinking about this (the prime minister's passing) and praying for safety for you guys since I saw it on the news last week.... glad to know that comfort food can come to the rescue with this lesson in global humanity and politics.

Of course, I'm always praying for your safety & safe return visits to the states... *hug*

Enjoy your mock-yams, yammit! *wink*grin*

Sara said...

Thanks! I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to document the death of the Prime Minister on the blog.

Anonymous said...

You can find yams in Addis. I think in supermarkets near the African Union, as many west african delegates shop there.