I fell under the charm of Momma Cherri (real name Charita Jones) when we were introduced to her through Gordon Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares about 6 years ago, and she instantly became an overnight sensation in her own right with her down to earth stance, genuine warmth and her passion for good old American soul food shone on. She introduced many of us to hush puppies, Succotash and Corn Pudding. I swear by her Cajun seasoning recipe. I've tried lots of other recipes in the past, her recipe has depth of flavour. I know her cookbook is not vegetarian, but there are a number of recipes there such as Vegetable Jambalaya, Peppers stuffed with Cornbread and Roast Curried Butternut Squash and many others can easily be vegified (is that a word), I mean made suitable for vegetarians.
Sadly due to the economic climate, she had to close her restaurant ' you can have the best food in the world, but if you don't have enough customers coming through your doors...you will struggle'. Please read this article, where Charita expresses with honestly her experiences. Her experience echoes some of my own reality in the past year, so I can truly empathise. On the plus side, she is still cooking for those near enough to her to enjoy. She continues to make TV appearances as well as sell at farmers markets and caters at some of Brighton's trendiest venues. Check out Momma Cherri's website.
The one recipe that I have had bookmarked for a while has been her Sweet Potato Pie with Pecans. I had not planned on making these until the autumnal season, but I had purchased some sweet potatoes to roast for my nephews and nieces. They did not show up and abandoned me as a better offering to go to Barry Island had come up. That is when my thoughts turned to making something more yummy with them. And oh my goodness, I don't use these words that often but these were truly heavenly - divine in fact. My regular readers will vouch that I don't use these words often, but this pie was luscious in every way. Because it was so good, I had to contact Momma Cherri and ask her directly if I could share her recipe from her cookbook Momma Cherri's Soul in a Bowl with you all and she kindly granted my wish. Thank you so much Momma Cherri.
The Sweet Potato Pie recipe will fill two pastry cases, however I decided made individual ones, so that I could freeze then and then enjoy them with my lovely husband over the next couple of months, maybe some guests will get a look in too.
I may have over-done it on the mashing as I found myself left with lot more filling and not enough pastry. If you do find yourself in the same position, you may want to make more pastry, however I just filled up ramekin dishes and baked them. I wasn't going to freeze the ramekins, so I personally delivered them over to my parents home, where the nephews and nieces had returned from their beach adventure and tucked in immediately with vanilla ice-cream. Thumbs up all round.
As I made this recipe as a back up from roasting them, you will note that my Sweet Potato Pies are missing one vital ingredient - Yes, the pecan topping, sadly when I went to make these - I had none, not even walnuts that would have made a good substitute, so my sweet potato pies look very naked, nonetheless they were very moreish and delicious. I am hoping to make Momma Cherri's Key Lime Pie next.
I am sharing this recipe with Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes who is hosting August 2013 Edition #27 of Bookmarked Recipes.
Sweet Potato Pies (Makes 2 large pies or 24 individual ones)
Permission granted by the Queen of Soul Food in the U.K Charita Jones aka Momma Cherri from her Momma Cherri's Soul in a Bowl Cookbook.
1kg sweet potatoes
300g softened butter
300g caster sugar
400ml can of condensed milk
4 free range eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 - 2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
(Optional) 1 handful of pecan nuts or walnuts for topping
For the sweet pastry
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar
130g butter, diced
3 - 4 tablespoons cold water
To make the pastry,
Combine the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl, then gently tip this into a food processor with the butter and blitz to get fine crumbs. Now tip back into the bowl and gently mix in the water until well amalgamated. (Please note you may not need all of the third tablespoon of cold water) Knead the dough gently, then wrap it with. Put into fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, divided the pastry into 2 balls and roll out each thinly to line two 23cm tart tins, trim the edges, then pinch them a the top to flute them. Alliteratively you can make little mini pies using muffin tins. Cut out small circles of pastry and use to line the tins. Chill until ready to use.
To make the Sweet Potato Filling
Place the sweet potatoes in their skins in a large pot of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until they are soft but not falling apart; a knife should pass through them easily. Remove from the water and gently peel off the skin. Place the flesh ina large bowl and add the softened butter and the sugar. Mix together with an electronic mixer or a potato masher until smooth. Add the condensed milk, eggs, spices, vanilla and lemon juice and mix until the mixture is lump free and resembles smooth mash.
Fill the pastry cases three quarter full and top with the pecans and walnuts (if using). Place the pies in an oven preheated to gas mark 4/180oc and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the filling is firm and golden brown. Serve either warm of cold, with ice-cream.
NOTE: Once the pies are completely cold, you can wrap them tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.