Goodbye My Sweets!


I love ginger. Is there anybody who does not? I grew it one year and got the most amazingly tender and delicate roots where the skin was so thin that it was nonexistent. I had incredible ginger shoots and pickled ginger that year (note to self: need to grow ginger again this year). Where was I? oh yes, so I cook quite a bit with ginger: curries, stir-fries, stews, candied ginger, tea, ice-cream, steamed pudding, you name it!

And sweet potatoes, full of bright vitamins and flavors, are also a favorite. Although they are not at all related to potatoes (they are related to morning glories, if you ask… you didn’t? too bad!), I often used them like potatoes. They bake, they steam, they roast, they fry, they mash, they gratine: is there anything the sweet potato can’t do in the kitchen?

I also love those one-pot dishes of which I can make a big batch that will keep for several days in the fridge and reheat well.

So… having on hand some stew beef from Joyce Harman, plenty of ginger, some tatsoi greens that survived the truly cold weather and the LAST of the sweet potatoes from the garden, I decided to make a dish that totally fits the bill (and that will be an appropriate good-bye to the sweet potatoes) : Red Cooked Beef With Sweet Potatoes.

The dish – inspired by a recipe that appeared in Eating Well magazine in 1996 – is redolent of spices and warming – perfect in winter. But the heat of the fresh ginger and the chili is balanced by the saltiness of the soy sauce and the sweetness of the sugar, cinnamon & anise seed. And of course, lots of garlic to keep the vampires at bay! The original recipe called for lamb, scallions instead on the onion, had way too much water, way not enough ginger and used spinach as the greens. So you can see I made some changes to fit my taste. You, of course, can revert back to the Eating Well recipe or make other changes to suit you. Like most soups and country-style stews, it’s very forgiving.

Red Cooked Beef With Sweet Potatoes
Inspired by Eating Well, Jan/Feb 1996



  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, halved then cut in thin wedges
  • 8 large cloves garlic, peeled, degermed and minced
  • 12 slices of ginger, peeled, and further cut thinly (julienned)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste (I use 1 Tablespoon of this sauce, but figured most people may want to tame it a little)
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons rice wine/ sake (in a pinch use rice vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 2 1/4 pound (1 kg) stewing beef, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 2 1/4 pound (1 kg) sweet potatoes, peeled ** and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 generous pound (500g) of young Chinese mustard greens such as tatsoi, bok choi etc washed, trimmed as appropriate (or spinach if you must)


  1. Heat a large heavy-bottom pan over high heat. Add oil. Add onion and stir-fry 1 or 2 minutes until onion start to color. Add ginger, garlic, cinnmon sticks, cinnamon and anise seed. Stir-fry until fragrant 15 to 20 seconds. Add soy sauce, wine rice, sugar. Stir. Add water and bring to boil.
  2. Add beef, bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered until meat is tender About 1 hour.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook until just about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the cinnamon sticks.
  5. Add the greens, mixing some in, cover and cook until wilted, just a few minutes (if you are using mature greens, chop first and cook longer).
  1. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! I often serve it with rice to make it stretch even longer.

* yes, I love cinnamon too.
** wait to peel and cut the sweet potatoes until time to add hem to the stew, or they may oxydize

Click HERE for the recipe only in printable form.

And I am sending this recipe to Grace of A Southern Grace for her Cinnamon Celebration.

Locavore log: beef from Joyce Harman in Flint Hill; chili paste, sweet potatoes and greens from my garden.

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