These glorious, amber, stuffed potatoes are an absolute delight to your senses. Rich and golden in colour they sit vibrantly against a pile of fresh watercress; their soft centres are packed full of sweet potato, meaty chestnuts, fragrant garlic and rich, fiery chilli. Twice baked in the oven they are intense, dense and pure sustenance for the soul. Since our spring evenings still have a sharp chill to them and I find this dish the perfect antidote to the possibility of any leftover winter blues; while still giving a nod to the beginnings of our seasonal spring greenery.
It is truly easy to make and you will find that it fills your kitchen with glorious, uninhibited scents: rich in chilli, garlic and that wonderful smell of caramelising sweet potato. I love to eat these just as they are as I think they make a wonderful stand alone dish; you can though serve them alongside grilled chicken or as part of a larger meal - my boyfriend likes them with a grating of sharp, intense cheddar, so the choice is very much your own. I like them just as they are: served on a bed of seasonal watercress and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. You can sit comfortably, fork poised above halves of the steaming, aromatic sweet potato, just waiting for the moment when you dig in to its gorgeous softened centre and then delight in its crispy, sugar crusted skin. The combination of sweet potato, peppery watercress and mellow chestnuts makes for a delicious spring evening meal and I highly recommend that you treat yourself to a little of this delicious indulgence.
CHESTNUT AND CHILLI STUFFED SWEET POTATOES
Serves 2 – 4 as a main or an accompaniment
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
120g of cooked and peeled chestnuts (I use Merchant Gourmet or St Dalfour)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli
1 small onion
2 large garlic cloves
For the salad and dressing
2 large handfuls of watercress
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 220c (200c Fan). Lightly scrub the sweet potatoes to remove any excess dirt and then pierce a couple of times on each side with a sharp knife. Place straight on to the shelf of the oven and bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down slightly.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Carefully remove the seeds from the chilli and slice it very finely. Roughly chop the chestnuts and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until softened – about 10 minutes. Add the chilli and chestnuts to the pan and stir through.
Turn the oven down to 200c (180c Fan). Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half widthways and carefully scoop out the flesh – ensuring that the skins stay in one piece – and place in a mixing bowl. Break up the potato flesh with a fork and then mix in the onion, chilli, garlic and chestnut. Place the potato skins on a baking sheet and fill each one with the potato and chestnut mixture. Bake in the oven for a further 30 minutes.
Divide the watercress between two plates and whisk together the oil, lemon juice, agave and seasoning. Pour the dressing over the watercress and then place the stuffed sweet potatoes on top. Serve while hot.