Roasted Yam (Oca) and Feta Salad

Yam Salad (2 of 4)

Great news, my first semester is over and I’m on holiday! I’m quite pleased I made it this far (Without having a breakdown! Or killing anyone! Or taking a long walk into a deep lake!), but truth be told right now I’m not thinking a whole lot about the six months past, I’m just euphoric deliriously excited pleased about the study-free days ahead of me. Throughout the term I kept having images of a horse being drawn forward by a carrot dangling in front of him; I think I’m the horse and the two week break was the carrot.

Now that I’m in the midst of these holidays, I have to be quite conscientous not to just waste my days. It’s all too easy to sleep through the morning and lose half your day – and if you’re anything like me (90% of thoughts centered around an upcoming meal), you’ll spend half of the remaning day making an elaborate late breakfast/lunch. So, to combat this, here’s me not being a lazy lobster and doing something productive. Behold, yams!

Yam Salad (1 of 4)

Yam Salad (3 of 4)

Yams have been popping up at markets all over the city for about a month now, and I began to feel guilty for not having cooked with something that seemed to be in such seasonal bounty. Checking out potted herbs at my local market, I spotted a bag of organic, baby yams that were dirt cheap. The elderly lady manning the stall said they grew in her back yard in a space where she wanted to plant spinach, so she dug them up and was happy to get rid of them. I explained that I hadn’t cooked them before myself, and had only eaten them occasionally at my aunty’s when I was younger. Before I’d even finished telling her how we’d eaten them a grave look came across her face and she told me, in a stern but loving way that only a grandmother could, to “never, ever boil yams. I looked blank so she continued, “just promise me that you’ll roast them, boy.” Hardly being one to disagree with someone so empassioned about vegetable cooking methods, I gave her my word, handed over my small change and headed home with a bag full of produce and a head full of ideas (and warnings).

After a quick google on how other people cooked this un-boilable vegetable – I wanted a second opinion, okay – it became clear that what we call yams in this country are not called yams elsewhere. So, to clear up any confusion, I’m not talking about the large, sweet potato-looking root vegetable named yam in the U.S. What we’re dealing with here (oxalis tuberosa) go by a few names, including oca and New Zealand yam. While they’re incredibly common in New Zealand, I’ve heard they can often be found in Latin and African markets in Europe and the U.S.

Yam Salad (5 of 1)

ROASTED YAM (OCA) AND FETA SALAD

I encourage you to do what you can to find true Oca/New Zealand yams, but if they prove evasive, this salad is also delicious with chunks of roasted sweet potato, parsnip, beets or other earthy root vegetables – just add a splash of cider vinegar to the roasting dish to account for the yam’s natural acidity. A good cultured nut or tofu cheese (this or this) makes a great vegan alternative to the feta, too.

500g yams, larger ones cut in half
olive oil, salt + pepper

125g sheep or goat feta
a large handful of parsley, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 cup cooked brown rice., or more as needed

extra-virgin olive oil
half a lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 200*C. Toss the yams with a splash of oil and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through, until soft when pierced with a fork.

Crumble the feta into a large mixing bowl, add the parsley, avocado, roasted yams, and cooked rice. Toss with a healthy glugg (~two tablespoons) of olive oil and the lemon juice, then serve while still warm.

Serves 2-3.

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