26 November 2020
Aaron Cezar: As an American, I introduced the annual tradition of a communal Thanksgiving meal to Delfina Foundation. During my childhood in Louisiana, my mother would gather our large family together to join hands and give thanks over the meal for our achievements – both big and small – and for the things that we might otherwise take for granted, like the food on the table and the person standing next to us.
The notion of family is deeply embedded in our work at Delfina Foundation, and all of the relationships that are formed between our residents, staff, collaborators and supporters. Although we cannot be physically together for this Thanksgiving, we thank everyone who has been there for us during this difficult year. I personally want to thank my team, who are very much an extension of my own family back home in Louisiana.
I have to confess that my favourite part of any Thanksgiving meal is dessert! So in this special ‘home delivery’ of Family Lunch, I am sharing a recipe for a very traditional and seasonal Southern American dessert, sweet potato pie.
As ever, our Family Lunches include a short artist presentation. Today, Sonya Dyer, a UK associate artist in our current science_technology_society programme, introduces her project Hailing Frequencies Open, exploring Black female subjectivities and imagining a future where the neglected stories of Black women of science and myth are reclaimed.
Part 2 | The Food
Sweet potato pie – Aaron Cezar
Our Director, and Louisiana-native, Aaron Cezar shares a special Thanksgiving recipe for a seasonal dessert: sweet potato pie.
While pumpkin pie is the dessert of the season, sweet potato pie is much more evocative to me – as a Louisiana-native – of this festive period. Sweet potatoes are much more common in Louisiana and have been adapted into the regional cuisine.
There are many variations for sweet potato pie, but what I present here is a basic recipe that I use: an amalgamation of approaches gathered from family and friends over the years. The quantities of sugar and spices often differ from home-to-home, and I encourage you to adjust these to produce your own version according to your taste. If you have a sweet tooth, add another cup of sugar. If you want to convert it into a savoury pie, you can eliminate the sugar altogether! With the spices and sugar, it might be best stick to the quantities below at first and then hone your own mix in subsequent batches.
For those of you who skip desserts, the recipe can be easily adapted into a casserole with a few adaptation noted below.
Makes 2-3 pies (because one would never be enough for a Thanksgiving table! This year, perhaps drop one off to a friend.)
4 sweet potatoes (medium to large)
½ cup (115g) butter
1 to 2 cups (200 to 400g) sugar – type and quantity according to your taste
1 and 2/3 cups (410g) evaporated milk
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
2 to 3 pre-made sweet pastry pie shells/pastry crusts. Feel free to make your own pastry or buy the ready-to-roll version and pop in a pie dish.
Whipped cream, double cream, ice cream, or melted marshmallows
First bake the sweet potatoes. Pierce them several times with a fork and place them on a baking tray or a simple sheet of aluminium foil in the oven. Bake at 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit) until you can stick a fork easily in them, which could be 40-50 minutes. Cool, peel and mash them well in a large mixing bowl.
Melt the butter. Separately beat the eggs. Then place all the filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended and smooth. Pour the mixture into your pie shells.
Bake the pies at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 35-40 minutes or until firm. You can use the toothpick test to check: insert one inside and if it comes out dry, your pies are ready! You can eat these pies fresh from the oven or at room temperature. Store in the fridge.
I prefer to have the pies without any toppings but whipped cream, double cream, ice cream or melted marshmallows are very common. If you want to add marshmallows, take the pies out of the oven at around 30 minutes, when the pies should be somewhat firm. Add marshmallows to cover the top (but not overflow) and then continue baking for another 10-15 minutes until the marshmallows are slightly browned. As the marshmallows melt, you can consider adding more to ensure good coverage. Regardless, perform the toothpick check on the filling at the end.
SWEET POTATO CASEROLE
This recipe can easily be adapted into a sweet potato casserole, a side dish rather than a pie. Add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon, a half of teaspoon of vanilla and 2 shots of apricot brandy (optional) to the recipe. Pour into a glass/tin casserole dish, rather than pie shells. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully fold in 1 cup of chopped pecans and top with about 15 large marshmallows (optional). Alternatively you can use layer the pecans as a topping rather than folding into the mixture. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until firm or the marshmallows are slightly browned. Serves 8.