Friday, March 7, 2014

Sweet Potato Cakes

I finally got these suckers to work!  I saw that the gluten free girl used yogurt to make an egg-free sweet potato latke, and that finally pinged a connection with the cashew cream I've been using, and this is the result. Inspired by her recipe.


Sweet Potato Cakes (There would be pictures, but we ate 'em too fast >_<)
1 small sweet potato

1/4-1/3 cup cashew cream or any thickening/binding agent at all - (thickened result needs to be about 3 Tb) (How to make it yourself) (other ideas would be yogurt, ground chia seeds with a little water, eggs, seriously, whatever works)

2-4 Tb potato starch or sweet potato starch or other starch (How to make that yourself - you'll need to do this a couple days ahead of time)

Seasonings - salt, if you've got nothing else. I tried fresh grated nutmeg (avoid for a low histamine diet. I substitute ground coriander that I grew myself), fresh thyme (more thyme than nutmeg). Ginger might do well, too. Basically, you want something a little sweet and floral, here, not savory.

Enough oil or fat to fill the pan 1/4 -1/2 deep - I only did 1/4 inch, using olive oil.

1. Pour the cashew cream into a small sauce pan and cook on low - low/med heat for a few minutes, until it is noticeably thickening. When it's done, it should be thicker than a thick yogurt. Let cool. You'll need about 3 Tb. of this thickened mixture, so if you don't have that much left, add more cream and make some more thickened cashew cream. I made this from homemade, unstrained cashew cream, which may be thicker than some store bought, so I'm not sure how store bought will hold up in this recipe.

2. Peel and grate the sweet potato. I may try it ungrated next time, but I wanted no peelings on the first trial, here. Then, you squeeze it dry, and get some of the starch out at the same time.

Since I've been making things with grated sweet potato and potato, I've learned that a better way to get the starch out of sweet potatoes is to put the grated sweet potato in a bowl of water for a bit - maybe a minute, at most (come to think of it, that may have been from the gluten free girl, too, LOL).  Then scoop it out, squeeze it by hand so the drippings fall back into the bowl, and put the drier pulp into a clean bowl. Do this with all the grated sweet potato.

NOTE: You can SAVE THE WATER if you want to get sweet potato starch. Just refrigerate for a couple hours and the starch settles to the bottom. Pour the water out carefully, leaving the starch at the bottom, and add water again until an inch over the starch. Let it settle again, pour out water again, and then let the starch dry in the bowl on the counter and run it through a sieve when dry. This usually takes a day or two, depending on your climate. In really humid climates, you might need a dehydrator.

2. Pour the oil into a frying pan and heat it to medium.

3. Mix the nutmeg, thyme, and cashew cream into the sweet potato gratings and mix it up by hand - it's a heavy, almost pasty consistency, when done. When fully mixed, add the potato starch, and now it will be a more pasty consistency, but if you form a patty in your hand, it should hold together.

4. Now make a small tester sweet potato cake, a flattened ball the width of a quarter. Fry it - I'm still working on the times, but it should take about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes to cook fully. Let it cool a little (turn down burner when you do, to avoid burning the oil), adjust burner setting and seasonings as needed.

NOTE: You NEED to do this 'tester,' as the gluten free girl puts it, for sweet potato. As I've been working with making a sweet potato cake, that's one of the biggest challenges: getting a temperature that is not too hot to burn the outside but hot enough to cook the inside.

5. Now, make 2-3 sweet potato cakes, about 2-3 inches in diameter and flattened to about 1/2-3/4 inch in your hands and drop them in the oil. If they are too thick, they won't cook on the inside properly before they burn, much more noticeably than potatoes would.  Cook them for 1 1/2-2 minutes on one side, and then 2-3 minutes on the other.  I don't know why, but I had to cook them more on the second side, every single time.

6. Take them off the heat and put on a plate with a paper towel, and let cool a few minutes before digging in. My daughter, who hates sweet potato, tasted one, commented that it tasted like Christmas, and then stole mine off my plate. So i think that's a plus. :-)

This time, rather than make cashew cream where I soak the cashews 8-14 hours, I tried to simply soak the cashews for 10-15 minutes before blending them up in the blender. The result thickened up just as nicely in the pan when cooked. Also, I didn't blend them up as well and had chunks of cashews left over. This was good enough I may try to add some more next time deliberately.

Seasonings-wise, I substituted ground coriander for the nutmeg. It still tastes all right, but the nutmeg is more distinctive (just not very low histamine diet compliant).

One thing that helped keep this cooked more thoroughly was to flatten the sweet potato cake after it's flipped over to cook the second time. The next thing was to keep them at the 2 inch in diameter size. These cooked better.

Also to note - this is a high fat food, definitely. Trying to cook this with less oil in the pan, as I attempted with the last batch, didn't work as well. The potato cakes don't stick together as well with the lower oil.  I don't like the texture all that much without less oil, either. Although the flavor is nice enough I'm wondering about what to do to make this a soup someday.

Messing around and tried this as hash browns, with 1 grated sweet potato, samosas from a Chinese Elm (like tiny leaves, but with some protein, basically, and little taste), nutmeg, and ginger fried on med-low in beef fat, with a lid on so it would steam a bit. Then added ground up cashews, about 1.5 oz, and turned up the heat to crisp it up.

The taste was fine, nothing special, but there wasn't enough time for the cashews to cook, and the texture never did get crispy at all.  Not a failure, but not great, either.

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