unbaked sweet potato pie

Sweet Potato Pie

unbaked sweet potato pie

Autumn is when all the good stuff happens: my birthday, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Bonfire Night and the joys of of planning your Christmas menu.

I’m knee deep in recipes for the festive season this week for the Brixton Blog and Bugle so my own cooking has been simple recently with nothing blog-worthy (unless you want to read about cheese on crackers of course?) So I’m pretending to be prepared for the US Thanksgiving by giving you the recipe I made for Canadian Thanksgiving for people in Brixton…who knew sweet potato pie could be so multicultural, eh?

This is a very easy recipe with a terrible photo and a set of kitchen tales I’ll probably never forget. I made a pastry inspired by Nigella’s latest book using buttermilk instead of egg and it made the lightest, shortest pastry possible. All of which meant when I dropped the unfilled pie shell the night before I was meant to serve the pie, there was no room for manoeuvre with its fragility.

Ho hum, I thought, these things happen. I simply made another batch of the pastry and lined my pie tin again. I froze it overnight and blind baked it in the morning. Back on track. Until I took the baking beans out and accidentally turned the oven temperature up not down.

Meh, it’s a bit browner than I intended. No need to panic. So the entire box of eggs are off. You have spares. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, dropping the filled pie against the oven the door 15 minutes into baking it is pretty close. Three hours before I had ten people round for dinner and my glossy spiced sweet potato custard looks like I’d reversed a car over it.

In real life I shoved some pastry stars on the top, egg washed them to oblivion and tweeted about it to turn it into an amusing anecdote we could all laugh about. Even I finding it funny until I lifted out the tub of creme fraiche I planned to serve with it about 15 minutes before everyone arrived, discovered it was mouldy, rolled my eyes at my life and chucked it in the bin.

Whereupon it hit the bottom of the bin and exploded violently upwards into my face, mould and all. I now know why they perfume cheap dry shampoo so heavily. The only thanks I was giving was that if anyone noticed an odd dairy related odour from me as I served the pie they were too polite to comment.

It might have driven me to the brink, but the pie went down so well there wasn’t a scrap to show by the end of the evening, so I recommend you make it if you want to make people very happy and then smugly show me on Instagram how well you did. I won’t notice of course. I’ll still be washing my hair.

Originally pubished on the Brixton Blog: Read more

pork buns

Jerk Pork Baozi

pork buns

I keep meaning to write a post about dim sum. Except that all I have to say is “I love dim sum. I’ve never met dim sum I didn’t like. Can we just order and talk with our mouths full?” I love the variety of dumplings, whether they are steamed, fried or both. I love the excuse to drink gallons of tea. I love that it makes lunch an event. I love that one of my favourite people in the world takes me out for dim sum sometimes and always orders the turnip cake for the table and bean curd skin rolls for me. I even love the surly table service.

I’m not sure why when I find the event of going out for dim sum so perfect that I decided to try making my own at home. You’d think it would be a recipe for disappointment, but it wasn’t. It just added another dimension of joy to dim sum. I’ve done mine with jerk pork for a Brixton feel but this would be a great way to use up leftover roast meat from Easter if you fancy an easy but impressive cooking project for the Bank Holiday.

Originally published at Brixton Blog…

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Inside the A&C Deli, Brixton

Save Our Shops

Inside the A&C Deli, BrixtonThey say a workman is only as good as his tools and while I think natural talent and practise play a part too, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. And for people who cook, their tools are the ingredients they use. Great food doesn’t always need specialist equipment but it does need something to create it with, preferably better quality ingredients.

We’ve all tried to cook a meal and been thwarted by our ingredients: the bacon that spewed out white water and refused to crisp at all, the tomatoes that were woolly and flavourless, the pulses that simply wouldn’t soften. Often it’s less about the price of the products and more about where they come from. Those tomatoes might have been Finest or Taste the Difference and still been nothing more than red water while the bag of cheap chickpeas from the corner shop might have been been more velvety than the branded ones.

Learning how and where to shop for your food is as important a part of learning to cook as how to prepare the ingredients once you get them home, but is an element that rarely gets talked about beyond a certain amount of showing off these days. I had a Ladybird book as a child that probably seems incredibly quaint now with a mummy and housewife popping to her greengrocer, butcher, baker and probably candlestick maker. But it acknowledged the link between where the food is farmed and where it is cooked. Good shops matter. Read more

steamed pastelle

Trinidad Pastelles for Christmas

steamed pastelleI’ve been working on several pieces for the Brixton Blog over the last few weeks about what different cultures and nationalities do for Christmas and my attention was particularly drawn to pastelles from Trinidad as these parcels of filled cornmeal steamed in a banana leaf sounded like the perfect way to try out my new electric steamer-slow cooker in style. I’ve also always wanted to use banana leaves and I’d never seen them until now to buy. If you can’t get them, then wrap your pastelles in greaseproof paper instead. These are traditionally eaten on Christmas Day but I think they’d be a great way to use leftovers in style so I’m publishing the recipe today so you can buy cornmeal alongside your Big Shop you’ll be doing later…

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Brixton Spiced Beef


Having been reintroduced to the Irish tradition of spiced beef by Niamh Shields’ fantastic recipe in Comfort and Spice, it’s become a North/South food festive favourite again. This year I’ve gone a little bit Brixton with the cure and the cooking liquor and am hoping to make pastelles with my leftovers.

This version was for the Brixton Blog to show the wealth of Christmas ideas in the area. Help make it an extra tasty treat by donating anything you can to our crowdfunder for a news editor to help us keep local journalism alive and supporting independent traders in a unique community. It closes on December 6th and will make a massive difference. You can even get signed copies of Recipes From Brixton Village this way for Christmas so click as you read!

This cured slow cooked beef is a traditional festive dish in my home country of Ireland. It’s an excellent Christmas Eve meal and creates fantastic leftovers in the best breakfast hash you’ll ever eat. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients and prep time. There’s not much activity, just time in the fridge before low slow cooking. The flavour is so good, it’s well worth it.

Originally published at the Brixton Blog…

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