Thanksgiving falls this week. At this time of year, our televisions and social media feeds are awash with images of a very similar feast to our own on Christmas Day, with the traditional roast turkey taking centre stage along with all the trimmings.
But, one dish has stood out to me since I was a child, when I watched American families on sitcoms gathering around a toasted marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole. It seems bizarre to mix such a sweet fluffy topping with gravy and turkey, but it does work, to an extent. After all, the gaminess of turkey always balances nicely with slightly sweet cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes are, like their name suggests, naturally sacchariferous. Along with some seasonal spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, it brings a more natural, softer sweetness.
When attempting to make a version of this unusual dish myself, I trawled through recipes that insisted a cup full of brown sugar was necessary, but a little maple syrup is enough, especially with that blanket of charred marshmallows on top. I love a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe that adds maple syrup, butter and cumin to sweet potatoes. The combination of earthy smoky cumin is so delicious with that sweetness. I was tempted to use it here too, but held off due to the marshmallow (which are optional – you can leave those out too if you would prefer).
For some added texture I toasted buttery pecans and encrusted them in a dark caramel spiked with rosemary. These pecans are addictive and worth making on their own – perfect for adorning a cheese board over the festive period. Add a pinch of smoked paprika or garam masala for even more flavour.
Lilly’s Kitchen Tips
- Keep the cooking water from vegetables like sweet potato, peas and carrots. It is perfect for adding to soup, sauces or gravies, and retains so much flavour and nutrients.
- Make sweet potato purée ahead of time as it freezes well. You can also add butternut squash or pumpkin.
- Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs at this time of year, perfect for decorating both sweet and savoury dishes. It is quite hardy and grows really well in Ireland. Keep a plant on your kitchen windowsill and plant outdoors in spring.