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Making Food Fun Again: Say Yes to Yam!

Making Food Fun Again:

Say Yes to Yam

By Chef Patrice Harris-Henry The Reggae Chefs (Jamaica) Director & Executive Chef of Mission:FoodPossible

With children being home, many parents have been juggling work, navigating home-schooling and handling everything else life throws at them. The last thing parents should be worried about is what to cook and how to keep meals exciting and interesting.

Let’s journey together during this quarantine period to make food fun again! This week’s journey takes us down a road with a very versatile but nutritious crop that is often mistaken for sweet potatoes. Yams have a brown, rough bark-like skin that is usually cylindrical in shape and varies in size. The flesh colour varies from yellow, white, purple or even a slight pink in mature crops.

Did you know there are over 600 varieties of yams? There are the negro yam and yellow yam in Jamaica, Cush Cush yam in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago and Chinese yam in the Windward Islands to name a few.

Yam is a tuber vegetable that originated from Asia and Africa where it is called Nyami. It was introduced to South America and the Caribbean during slavery and was given the English name yam. Although known by several names, all yams are delicious but preferences will mostly depend on texture.

Yam is found in the staple food group of the Caribbean and provide an excellent nutrient profile, the main nutrient is carbohydrate which includes good carbs in the form of dietary fiber. Other nutrients include Protein, Vitamin B1 (thiamin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Magnesium, Copper, Potassium, Manganese, Thiamine and Folate. With these super nutrients yam can contribute to overall health benefits as they:

· can improve your overall digestive health due to the resistance starch they contain;

· help with weight loss. Due to the higher fiber they contain which allow you to stay fuller longer;

· Improve cholesterol levels since it contains resistance starch and fiber, which help to curb your appetite and also curb blood sugar levels; and

· Can improve heart health by getting rid of the excess sodium in the body, hence they have the ability to lower the risk of developing long-term cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, stroke and heart attack).

These are some ways in which yam can contribute to a healthy lifestyle and maintain or prevent weight gain during this quarantine period.

I like yams because of their waxy texture and their ability to absorb flavours and spices. Yams can be prepared and served at any point in your meals, any time of the day from breakfast pancakes to dinner and desserts. Some dishes include yam croquettes, yam casserole, yam pizza, yam lasagna, creamed yam and yam salads.

It can be prepared in a variety of ways but is mostly boiled or cooked in soup or roasted and serve with cod fish (salt fish). In Barbados, yams are served mashed but are prepared in two unique ways, it is boiled and mashed with milk and butter while in Trinidad and Tobago yams are diced, boiled and then cooked in a saucepan with chopped onions, scotch bonnet pepper, parsley, salt and black pepper and olive oil.

This pandemic has created many disruptions, for instance food wastage will be on the rise with closures of schools and hotels and tourist attractions with large kitchens. Farmers also face a hard time distributing their crops. To prevent food wastage, we have to find new and innovative ways of prepare these provisions. They have to be preserved or we can share our excess with food bank programmes, or with neighbours near and far. We can also create learning or educational platforms to allow organizations and individuals knowledgeable about food security to host training and webinars to help local farmers and community members utilize local produce. Support your local farmers by eating fresh, supporting the concept of “farm to table.” How do you prepare yams in your country? Get more creative and add this delicious recipe below to your meal prep for lunch or dinner.

Baked Yam Chicken Salad with Jerk Aioli 2 lbs. yellow yam

¾ cup freshly diced carrots

¾ cup freshly diced string beans

¾ cup freshly cut sweet corn

¼ cup diced onions white or purple

¼ cup diced sweet peppers

1/8 cup finely diced escallion

3 tsp white pepper

2 tsp complete seasoning

1 ½ cup Jerk aioli (recipe below)

2 cups diced cooked chicken (de-bone breast or thigh)

Method

1. Peel and wash yams

2. Cut into ¼ inch thick rounds, the medium dice

3. Rub oil, salt, black pepper, place on greased baking tray and put to bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender at 375°F

4. Wash vegetables and dice to make mix vegetable

5. Wash and dice sweet peppers and onion

6. Remove cooked yams from oven and put to cool

7. Combine all ingredients (baked yam, mixed vegetables, escallion, onions, white pepper, complete seasoning and chicken breast) mix well, add jerk aioli and mix well

8. Place in a serving container on a bed of lettuce, garnish diced escallion and red bell peppers and serve.

Note: the chicken can be prepared by any method, grilling, pan-frying, baking etc.

Always remember to cut food items in similar sizes to ensure even cooking of food.

Jerk Aioli

Ingredients

2 egg yolks

5 tsp jerk rub (you can make your own or use store-bought jerk paste or rub)

1 tsp zest of lemon

1 lemon (juiced)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup olive oil

Method

1. Whisk egg yolks, lemon juice until creamy in a bowl

2. Slowly drizzle olive oil in egg yolk and whisk constantly and quickly until all oil is incorporated and the mixture is emulsified (if mixture starts to separate, stop adding oil and whisk mixture until it comes together, then resume adding oil)

3. Whisk in jerk paste or rub, lemon zest, salt and black pepper

Note: If aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Cover and chill, until ready to use.

Or if you’re using store-bought mayonnaise (it is safer and easier to handle)

Jerk Aioli

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¾ tsp salt

1 tsp lemon zest

½ tsp ground black pepper

5 tsp jerk rub or paste

Method

  1. Mix mayonnaise, jerk rub or paste, lemon juice, salt, lemon zest and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Want to learn how to create more new and interesting dishes check our Instagram page @thereggaechefs every Sunday at 4:00 pm Eastern time and 3:00 pm Jamaican time as we go live to prepare something unique and of course chatting about our Jamaican culture. I wonder where our journey will take us next? Tune in to find out.

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