By Dunni Obata
The British have their mash which they are very proud of, a true National Treasure. Well, we can have our own too using a true National ingredient, Yam. Wherever you go in Nigeria, Yam is widely consumed. East, North, South, West, everybody eats Yam. When I was much younger, I always thought Yam was only native to Nigeria and neighbouring West African Countries. I know better now as another root tuber is called Yam in North America, but it looks different, and the colour is orange. A dish originating from The South in the U.S. called Candied yams, they also have mashed Yam. In Latin America and parts of Asia, our local Yam is also consumed but called succa yam I think. I just love how food is Universal, and I hope these similarities amongst our food will help gain Nigerian food global recognition and acceptance.
A few days ago I came up with the idea to make Steak au poivre, Nigerian. This Steak is a French dish which simply means Steak served with peppercorns. Ooooooooh people, I SUCCEEDED. It was beyond amazing, and very, very, very, familiar. It ranked top of the best steaks I have ever eaten. While I was ruminating the idea for that Steak in my head, I wanted to make it more authentically Nigerian by serving it with Yam chips instead of Potato chips; then a bell rang in my head, why not make Yam mash? After all, Steak is commonly served with mash.
There are lots of similarities between potato and Yam in cooking. In fact, two of my readers have made Potarita using my Yamarita recipe. They substituted Yam with Potato. Making this was very interesting. I failed on the first try as I ended up with something close to the texture of Pounded Yam. It occurred to me to throw away the traditional method of making mashed potatoes and amend it to suit the unique characteristics of Yam. The recipe for mashed potatoes calls for a sprinkling of ground pepper, I used ground Uziza seeds, as Uziza seeds are a close relative to black peppercorns. It was successful. Creamy, smooth, delicious and very tasty. Move over mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, there is a new kid on the block. Yam is here to say, and it deserves its place of honour amongst the centuries-old greats.
You will need
boiled yam chunks, butter – softened/room temperature, milk – slightly warmed, salt, ground uziza seeds.
P.S – To make it more rich and creamy, add double cream or creme fraiche, but for the benefit of my readers who may not have access to sourcing cream, I decided to make this recipe with universal ingredients.
Get your tools ready. You will need either a fork, a potato masher or a potato ricer. I preferred the potato masher, although if you were making mashed potatoes, it is recommended that you use the potato ricer as it gives better results. For Yam, I don’t think so
- Boil your Yam in cubes till it is soft.
Once it is almost soft, warm your milk slightly. Just slightly. If your butter is not soft, i.e. room temperature, heat it lightly in a microwave for 5 seconds. You just want to soften it; you don’t necessarily want it to melt.
Now to the mashing. When I used a potato ricer, I did not like the texture and on adding milk and butter, the texture became gluey, and it started to resemble Pounded Yam. So I ditched it and went back to the potato masher.
Once the yam cubes have been drained, add butter, milk and a pinch of salt, then you proceed to mash. You must do this gently. i.e. do not overbeat the Yam or it will get gluey and change into the texture of pounded Yam.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the addition of milk, butter and salt will help halt the pounded Yam forming process, so don’t counteract their work by applying so much pressure, as if you are pounding Yam by hand. Hehehe. Gently does it.
Even with the mashing, you can decide to mash until it is totally creamy or leave little chunks of Yam in it. Some like creamy mash, others, like chunky mash, it depends on you. I like it in between, so I mashed it well but left little chunky bits about the size of pebbles and beans.
If you use cold milk or butter, you will mess this up. If your butter is straight from the fridge, soften it slightly in a microwave and slightly warm the milk while the Yam is boiling. Anything you add to the boiled yams must not be cold, and not flaming hot either.
As you are mashing, you will notice that the yams would be absorbing the milk and butter very fast, keep mashing gently and top up with milk and butter.
Once mashed, and it is smooth, top up a little with more milk and butter. What you are aiming for is the consistency of mashed potatoes and not pounded Yam. If you have eaten mash before, you will know what I mean. If you haven’t, the best way I can describe the consistency you are aiming for is thick pap, or very soft pounded Yam, as if someone dunked in a lot of water while pounding.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the mash should compress when pressed with a fork, that is when you know you have gotten it right.
Sprinkle in about 1/2 a teaspoon of uziza for flavour and heat. Taste and decide if you want to add more or not. Also taste for salt and add more if necessary.
And that’s it! Your creamy Yam Mash all done. Serve with grilled chicken or Steak.
For an extra kick, you can sprinkle on dry pepper, tiny chopped bits of ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) or simply use chilli oil. I used chilli oil.
Now, tell me what you think about yam mash. You may say oh it is Western food, think again, this is a good example of food fusion that works, and I mean works. No, it doesn’t taste like pounded Yam, because of the butter, milk, salt and uziza.
If you add double/heavy cream, it will even taste more rich and creamy. I can bet that if you serve this to your friends from other cultures, no one will tell you to take it back. It tastes really lovely. I hope you try it and be as excited as I was when I made it. I will be expecting your feedback.
If you have babies, you are weaning, or toddlers, they will so loooooooove this. Happy cooking!