The yam is a staple food in many tropical countries, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Yams have brown tough skins and the flesh can vary in colour – anything from white to yellow to purple – depending on the variety.
The term 'yam' is often used in American to describe the sweeter, orange sweet potato.
If you are buying yams from a specialist African or Caribbean shop, ask them how to prepare the yams you are buying. They will have advice on whether the yam must be peeled before cooking and how to serve it.
Small yams can be cooked in their skins, but larger ones should be peeled, washed and blanched for 10-20 minutes in boiling salted water before being used.
Yams can be used in the same way as potatoes. Serve mashed yams with plenty of butter and seasoning as an accompaniment to meat stews or other vegetable dishes. Make yam chips or bake yams in their skins. In Africa, yam is pounded into a very stiff paste called fufu, eaten by hand in pinches from the serving tray, rolled into balls and dipped into a stew.