I’m writing to you this week from Sydney Australia, as have popped over here for a couple of weeks to visit my father and youngest sister. Because my father has lived here for so long, I consider Sydney my second home. The weather’s always great, and it’s nice to get away from my normal surrounds for a while and work from a different location. Also I’ve just finished up a bunch of essays and exams for my naturopathy and nutrition degree, so am looking forward to the chance to turn down the pace a bit for a few days.
While I’m here, I love the challenge of creating new recipes with whatever I can find from the local markets, organic shops, plus remnants lurking about in dad’s cupboard. My dad started moving to a plant-based diet at the beginning of the year, and has had incredible results. Without even expecting it, after 8 weeks of removing most animal products from his diet, his blood cholesterol plummeted and his doctor told him he could go off the high-cholesterol drugs he’d been taking for years. I was of course beyond happy, and in awe at the speed at which his body was able to heal itself.
Nevertheless, he’s a single gent living on his own most of the time, so the motivation to create elaborate fancy meals is fairly low. So while I’m here I am always looking for new ways to help him create super easy, quick, and affordable meals whilst still being packed with plant-based nutrients. His current favourite is brown rice, quinoa, lentils and canned tomatoes, all cooked in his rice cooker with some spices. All I have to do now is coerce him into throwing some kale from his garden in at the end.
This stuffed kumara recipe I’m sharing with you today is perfect for achieving that simplicity, speed, and affordability that he and so many of you are looking for. I’ve been making various versions of these ‘kummies’ since I was at uni first time round, but back then I normally added egg to bind and feta for flavour. I’ve now however figured out how to recreate an equally delicious meal without the need for egg or dairy. These kumara are packed full of veges, bound together with a delicious cashew cream, topped with moreish crunchy seeds, then given an added flavour boost with pesto on top. Serve them with a simple dressed salad on the side and you’re ready to roll.
Kumara, otherwise known as sweet potato outside of New Zealand, is a fantastic staple food to include in your diet. It’s super affordable, easy to cook, and has a delicious natural sweetness to it whilst still being low on the glycaemic index. This means it releases it’s nutrients slowly into your blood stream without spiking your blood sugar or insulin levels, giving you long lasting energy after consumption. It’s also a fabulous source of dietary fibre which helps keep your nether-regions regular, as well as acting as a pre-biotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut which then feed your colon keeping you healthy.
Half a cup of cooked kumara provides you with 120% of your daily vitamin A requirements (via beta carotene which gives them their orange colour), and a quarter of your vitamin B6 and C needs. Vitamin A supports your immune system and bones, and helps absorb light in your retina to help you see clearly. Vitamin B6 meanwhile is crucial for energy production, while vitamin C is needed as a co-enzyme to help absorption of other minerals such as iron, as well as protects against immune system deficiencies and cardiovascular disease.
The initial baking of these stuffed kumara is the lengthiest part of this recipe, but luckily you can just pop them in the oven and walk away for an hour. You can bake them faster at 180°C or 200°C, but they’re more likely to be crunchier on the outside and not as juicy and sweet on the inside. I prefer the longer one hour at 150°C method.
I actually popped these in the night before while the oven was still warm from cooking dinner, and left them there for an hour. Then the next night I sliced them open continuing with the rest of the recipe. This way the actual cook time on the night is really only about 20 minutes max (great!).
I filled this version with leek and cavolo nero (dinosaur kale) , as that’s what we happened to have in our fridge and garden at the time. However the possibilities here are endless, so use whatever you have available that’s local and in season. I’ve tried the following swaps and they all taste brilliant:
- Leek – swap for onion (this is what I normally use as onions are plentiful and cheap year round).
- Cavolo Nero – switch for regular kale, spinach or silver beet, or go more Italian with sliced mushrooms, capsicums, zucchini or freshly chopped tomatoes (add tomatoes at the end just before stuffing so they don’t let out too much liquid). Any combo of these vege will work so go wild.
- Cashews – cashews are definitely my favourite here as they’re so easy, blend well and are reasonably priced. But if you don’t have them you could use brazil nuts, macadamias (delicious but expensive), sunflower seeds or blanched almonds.
- Chilli – if you’re going with the italian style vege, you could opt for using oregano, thyme, basil, or even coriander here. Honestly you can do no wrong.
- Toppings – these stuffed kummies are naturally quite sweet on their own, so for toppings you’ll want something creamy and slightly tangy. Try my favourite Pesto recipe as I’ve done here, my Cashew Aioli here, or simply some cubed avocado and relish. For seeds, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, chia, poppy or hemp seeds all work great.
Before I forget, kumara/sweet potato come in red, orange and gold varieties. All of these work well, so try it out with a mixture! The finished stuffed kumara will last in the fridge for at least five days, or you can store extras in the freezer. From frozen simply bring them out in the morning and pop on the bench to defrost, then heat in the oven that night for 10 minutes at 180°C. I highly recommend making a double batch so you can save some for later in the week.
Give them a go let me know what you think!
Please note – if you are wanting to meet any of the specific dietary requirements below, please read my recipe notes.
- 4 large kumara sweet potato (~1.6kg)
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 2 leeks finely sliced*
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- large handful cavolo nero dinosaur kale, finely sliced*
- 1 c raw cashews soaked 2 hours, rinsed and drained
- 1 c filtered water
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 c chickpea (besan) flour
- 1 tsp himalayan pink salt
- 1 chilli chopped**
- pumpkin & sesame seeds to sprinkle
- Slice kumara in half and place cut side down in a tray drizzled with 1 tbsp of your coconut oil. Bake on fan bake at 150°C for 1 hour then let cool. To save time during the week I like to do this the day before (or on a Sunday).
- Saute leek in the remaining coconut oil for 5 minutes. Then add garlic and cavolo nero for another few minutes until cavolo is slightly wilted.
- Carefully scoop kumara flesh into the pan, leaving a 1/2cm edge in each kumara so they hold their shape.
- Blend cashews, water, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, salt and chilli in a blender to form a super smooth cream, then add to pan, mixing to combine everything together to a nice sticky mix.
- Scoop mixture back into the kumara cases pressing down firmly, sprinkle with pumpkin and sesame seeds, then bake at 180°C for 10 minutes or until the seeds are golden and crunchy on top.
- Serve with avocado and your favourite relish, cashew aioli or with a dollop of pesto. These are great the next day for lunch too (actually not just great. Amazing!).
- Make it nut-free: use watermelon seeds instead of cashews.
- These kumara are super versatile, so if you don’t have leek and cavolo nero try regular brown onion and any other green vegetable you have on hand. See above for more substitution ideas too!
- In place of fresh chilli, you could also use chilli flakes.
- To minimise prep time, bake the kumara the day before or on the weekend in advance and keep in fridge until ready.
- You can use red, gold or orange kumara (but red are my favourite for these).
- These kumara can be kept in fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for several months – to defrost simply bring them out in the morning and put them on the bench to defrost then heat in the oven that night for 10 mins at 180.
- You can quick soak your cashews in hot water for 30 mins if you forget to the night before!
Herbs and Natural Supplements – An Evidence-Based Guide (Braun, L., & Cohen, M.)
Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition (T. Colin Campbell)
The China Study (T. Colin Campbell)
The Food Pharmacy (Carper, J.)
Healing With Wholefoods (Pitchford, P.)
The University of Sydney – GI Database
USDA Nutrition Database