I have always loved sweet potatoes and having read a lot about the Blue Zones* recently – Okinawa specifically – I’m now determined to include them even more in our diet. Although this Indian spiced dish doesn’t seem to have much in common with a traditional Japanese meal, it contains three of the main staple foods of a traditional Okinawan diet: sweet potato, tofu and turmeric. The Okinawan ‘beni imo’ is a purple type of sweet potato, which can be a little hard to come by here in the UK, which is why I used the more common orange sweet potato. If you know where to get beni imo (or satsuma imo) you can absolutely use it for this recipe, just be sure to allow for increased baking time due to its firmer, drier and starchier texture. All types of sweet potato are an excellent source of fibre, antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. The tofu scramble adds protein and the addition of spinach and tomatoes not only tastes divine, but brings even more vitamins, antioxidants and fibre to the plate. Add the countless health benefits of the many spices and you really get the best of plant-based eating.
What you need:
For the sweet potatoes:
1kg sweet potatoes – peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
½ organic lemon
3tbsp olive oil
For the spice mix (half of it will be used for the sweet potatoes, the other half for the tomato/spinach mix):
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp garam masala
2tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp mustard seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1tsp chilli flakes/powder
For the tofu scramble:
400g tofu (I prefer a slightly softer type, but any plain tofu will work)
2tbps olive oil
2tbsp curry powder
Pinch of turmeric (for the egg-like yellow colour)
Salt to taste
For the tomato – spinach mix:
Dash of olive oil
1 red onion – finely sliced
4-5 garlic cloves – finely sliced
4 small or 3 large tomatoes – cut into small chunks
300g spinach – washed
Generous handful of fresh coriander – washed and chopped, stalks included
How you do it:
It’s always easiest to get all the chopping and general prep out of the way first, but you can also do this while you go along.
Preheat the oven at fan 180C.
In a large bowl mix 3tbsp of olive oil, half of the spice mix and a good squeeze of lemon juice, give it a good stir then add the sweet potato cubes.
Gently stir the sweet potatoes until they are evenly coated with olive oil and spices.
Transfer them to a lined baking tray, place the lemon half you already used on the baking tray as well and put everything in the oven to roast for approx. 30mins.
Time to move on to the tofu scramble.
In a bowl mix the olive oil, curry powder, turmeric and salt, then crumble in the tofu using your fingers.
Mix well, then transfer everything to a non-stick frying pan and fry on medium heat for 5-7mins stirring every now and again.
Once done transfer the tofu back to the bowl.
Using the same frying pan heat up a little dash of olive oil (unless there is enough left in there), then add the onion and fry for a few minutes until it starts to look translucent.
Now add the garlic and the other half of the spice mix and fry for another minute.
Next up are the tomatoes and after another 2-3mins return the scrambled tofu to the pan.
Once the tofu is hot it’s time to slowly add the spinach, handful after handful until wilted, adding the coriander last.
Add salt to taste.
Squeeze flesh and juice of the roasted lemon into the tofu mix and stir, then serve on top of the roasted sweet potatoes.
* The term "Blue Zones" refers to five geographic areas where people have low levels of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else in the world. Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece) and Loma Linda (California) are scattered around the globe and represent a variety of different cultures, but they all share a similar lifestyle and a largely plant-based diet. All of them have strong family and community ties, move throughout the day and eat very little meat, dairy and eggs. The combination of having a strong sense of purpose, little stress, meaningful relationships, staying physically active up to old age and eating a variety of plant-based foods results in long, healthy and happy lives.