Sweet potato, fennel and orange bake with coconut milk and barberries

Sweet potato, fennel and orange bake with coconut milk and barberries

This recipe was inspired by Sabrina Ghayour’s sweet potato, coconut and thyme bake in her latest Bazaar cookbook. I decided to add more fruits and vegetables and go with different spices for the bake.

This recipe is sweet, sour, bitter, creamy and perfumy. The creaminess comes from the coconut milk and sweet potatoes, the bitterness comes from the cooked oranges, the fragrant, anise-like flavor comes from the fennel, and the sour taste comes from the barberries. Feel free to leave out the oranges and barberries if you don’t like bitterness, although I don’t think they impart a strong bitter taste, especially since it is complemented and balanced out by the other flavors.

I need to point out that I have the world’s worst oven. It doesn’t distribute heat evenly and often times dishes take longer to cook than is normally required. Please do keep that in mind. Depending on your oven, the dish might require less time, so just keep checking on the dish to see if it needs more time.

Hope you enjoy it, and as always, do let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Recipe

Ingredients

-1 large fennel bulb or 2 small ones

-Approximately 850g sweet potatoes

-2 oranges or seedless clementines

-3 garlic cloves

-2 cups coconut milk

-1 tsp cinnamon

-3/4 tsp allspice

-1/2 tsp garam masala

-1/4 tsp salt + more to sprinkle over the veggies

-¼ tsp black pepper + more to sprinkle over the veggies

-2-3 tbsp barberries

-½ tsp rose water (optional)

-Olive oil for drizzling

Method

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Slice the sweet potatoes thinly into approximately 0.5cm-thick circles. You don’t need to peel the sweet potatoes. The skin is perfectly edible, nutritious and delicious, but feel free to do so if you’re worried about chemicals in the skin or if that’s your preference.

To slice the fennel, trim off the stalks, but don’t throw them away. You can use them in salads, to make stock, or some delicious fennel tea. Cut the fennel bulb in half, then quarter the halves. Remove the tough roots, then slice the quartered fennel. For the garlic, slice it thinly. Peel the oranges and pull the them in half with your hands, then slide your fingers between the slices and pull them apart. You have the choice to remove the seeds if there are any, because they’re the main source of the bitterness. I’m honestly too lazy to do that, and also like the bitter taste, so I decided to keep the seeds. You also have the option to not peel the oranges and immediately slice them and bake them as they are. Set everything aside.

This step is optional, but it helps if you want the barberries to be sweeter and more fragrant. In a small frying pan, add a little bit of olive oil and cook the barberries on medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, then add the rose water. Set them aside.

Add the spices and salt and pepper to the coconut milk and whisk until it’s all mixed in together.

In a baking tray, line the sweet potatoes, fennel, garlic, oranges and try to fill in all gaps at the bottom layer. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on top of the first layer, keeping in mind that this dish doesn’t need a lot of salt as sweet potatoes taste great as they are. Squeeze 2/3 of the barberries in between the rest of the vegetables, but try to avoid layering them on the top layer, as they can burn quickly.

Pour over the coconut milk, and gently press down the vegetables with a spoon or spatula, then add another sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, then take out of the oven, press the vegetables down again until they’re submerged in the coconut milk, sprinkle the remaining barberries on top, turn the fan on (or alternatively increase the oven temperature to 220C), and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top layer caramelizes and the bottom layer cooks through. Please keep in mind that my oven doesn’t distribute heat evenly and it can take longer than other ovens for the food to cook. Your oven might require less time. Serve immediately.



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