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This old traditional Corfu recipe for sweet potatoes is called bourtheto or bourdeto.

Corfu Sweet Potato Bourdeto

Sweet potatoes probably came to Corfu with the Venetians, as did many other New World crops, sometime during the sixteenth century, where they remained poor man’s fodder for hundreds of years. It took the English to popularize them, by showing Corfiote aristocrats the virtues of serving them with syrup. Nevertheless, they have been cooked on a grill or in a pan in the classic Greek way, with olive oil and garlic. Roasted sweet potatoes were the classic accompaniment to Christmas turkey. There is also one great old recipe for sweet potatoes cooked with onion and cayenne, in a countryside rendition of bourtheto.
SERVES 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Greek extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large red onions peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 pounds / 1 5 kg sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. 1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and sweat the onions and garlic over low heat, covered, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, and tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon for about a minute.
  2. 2. Add the sweet potatoes and stir for another minute. Pour in ½ cup of the wine and enough water to barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the sauce is thick and dark, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. 3. Add the remaining ½ cup wine, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, another 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. 4. Remove from the heat, let stand for about 5 minutes, and serve.