The country of Papua New Guinea is a large Island in the South West Pacific region. It is the world’s second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. In this island nation, a huge range of different indigenous people live together. In a very unusual example of geography, New Guinea contains many of the world’s ecosystem types: glacial, alpine tundra, savanna, montane and lowland rainforest, mangroves, wetlands, lake and river ecosystems, seagrasses, and some of the richest coral reefs on the planet.
The human presence on the island dates back at least 40,000 years to the oldest human migrations out of Africa. Research indicates that the highlands were an early and independent center of agriculture, with evidence of irrigation going back at least 10,000 years.
Due to the very long amount of time people have lived there and its highly fractured landscape, an unusually high number of languages are spoken on the island, with some 1,000 languages (a figure higher than that of most continents) having been catalogued out of an estimated world-wide pre-Columbian total of 6,000 human dialects. Most are classified as Papuan languages, although a number of Austronesian languages are spoken on the coast and on offshore islands.
Here we have a recipe from the tropical rain forest portion of the island, a delicious combination of sweet potato, onion, garlic, coconut milk and orange juice topped with grated cheese. In fact, it’s essentially a New Guinea twice-baked potato! I have added a hint of ground coriander and some smoked paprika to the recipe – feel free to omit them, but I think they bring the whole flavor balance right into my own ideal profile. 🙂 Enjoy this rare recipe from a far-off island nation that deserves your consideration, Citizens!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 sweet potatoes, washed and dried
¼ cup butter, cut into pieces
½ cup coconut cream
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
2 tablespoons orange juice
¾ teaspoon freshly-ground coriander seed (optional)
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
4 heaping tablespoons of grated cheese – I prefer shredded Monterey Jack, but use any white cheese that melts well to your preference
Wrap each sweet potato in aluminum foil and place on a plate.
Bake in preheated 400 F oven for 1 hour, turning sweet potatoes halfway through cooking.
Check for doneness by poking a wooden skewer – the center should be perfectly tender. Cooking time depends on the size of the sweet potatoes, do not hesitate to continue cooking for a few extra minutes if necessary.
When out of the oven, split sweet potatoes in half lengthwise.
Gently scoop the flesh of the sweet potato out with a spoon, place the flesh in a bowl and immediately add the butter. Add salt and pepper, and mix well while crushing with a fork to get a smooth purée.
Set the skins of the half-hollowed sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Add the coconut cream, onions, garlic, ginger, spices and orange juice to the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well.
Fill the hollowed half sweet potatoes with this preparation. Spread one tablespoon of grated cheese over each, then place them under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is completely melted.
Serve right out of the oven, as an accompaniment to fish for example, or as a main dish with rice and a green salad.