I’ve always been one to romanticise the American South, mainly due to various drawly, tanned and laid back Hollywood incarnations of the mid nineties. Oh and Poppy Z Brite books. As well as loving a good vampire fight in the French Quarter, I have long salivated over the Soul Food phenomenon from gumbo to BBQ and back again and a glut of thanksgiving instagrams encouraged me to attempt a southern states inspired family feast this weekend. A solid, lazy spread of slow cooked comforts awaited: brisket, BBQ sauce, corn on the cob and casserole. US termed Casserole that is, which I mostly understand to be anything cooked in an oven proof dish with too much butter. Sweet potatoes were a must, so I went to Google to find some authentic instructions for them.
I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I found the recipes. I get that they have some funny culinary concepts across the pond but I wasn’t ready for what I found. Even if I wasn’t trying to shed some weight at the moment I would still be horrified at the construct of some of these ‘casseroles’. Sweet potatoes, sure. Then eggs, ok. Butter. Obviously. Cream. Ooh, alright then. Sugar. What? Sugar? For mains? I don’t know about that. Oh a thick layer of marshmallows on top? What the effin eff is wrong with some people?
America: you are sacked.
So I found these recipes and decided I was going to ignore them all due to there being enough diabetes in this world already and came up with my own take to accompany our soul food feast. I kept the accepted method of potato prep and borrowed the egg inclusion also. Natural yoghurt went in to loosen the spuds and take off the potentially sickly edge. Rather than go with a crumble style topping I voted for some toasted oats with cinnamon to compliment the sweet tones without just piling on sugar plus pecans for some crunch. No bloody marshmallows. It was triumphant and didn’t feel like a ‘light’ option in any way though technically I guess this could be a ‘diet’ version.
Boomboom Sweet Potato Casserole
Serves 5-6 as a side
1250g sweet potatoes
300ml natural yoghurt
4 tbspns rolled oats
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
You need to start this well in advance of your table time by baking the sweet potatoes (whole in their skins) until they are very soft, generally about 45 minutes at about 180.
While this is going on put the oats into a dry frying pan and heat gently, moving them around the pan until they just start to change colour to a golden brown at the edges. Allow them to cool then transfer to an air tight pot, stir in the cinnamon then leave until needed.
When the spuds are cooked allow them to cool for 20 minutes then skin them- this should be easy to do with your fingers as the flesh will have shrunk away. If you’re too posh to peel by hand cut them in half then spoon out the flesh. Discard the skins. The potatoes should break down easily with a fork or potato masher. Once they are well mashed add the yoghurt and beat through until you have a smooth mix. Then add the eggs and stir further to combine (make sure the mix has cooled or they will scramble!).
Transfer to oven proof dish, top with the oats and pecan halves then bake at 160 for 25 minutes, serve immediately. Without any marshmallows.