Giving thanks, down under

I won’t lie, we missed not being in the US for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t particularly expect the feeling; I’ve only been part of five or so Thanksgivings and one of them was in England.  But, seeing my Facebook newsfeed over-run with pictures of turkey and messages of thanks, I definitely felt some pangs for pumpkin pie and the sights and smells of fall.

Sooo, after a particularly un-Thanksgivingy dinner that Thursday, we decided to turn our Sunday BBQ plans into Sunday Thanksgiving plans and show our Aussie friends a true American tradition: pumpkin cheesecake, cornbread, turkey, stuffing and root vegetables,

Easier said than done.  After trips to Harris Farms, IGA, Woolworths and Coles, all hopes of finding canned pumpkin in Sydney went out the window.  Heck, we couldn’t even find a fresh pumpkin (nope, butternut squash doesn’t count). Along with pumpkin, we jettisoned the idea of fresh cranberries and cornmeal. D’oh! Defeated, we were sitting outside Coles in Bondi Junction at 7pm when Niraj had the idea to make a sweet potato pie instead. Say what? I know it’s a popular Thanksgiving dish, but the thought of putting potatoes in a dessert pie had never caught my attention.  We pulled up a celebrity chef’s scathing review of a sweet potato pie recipe that was “too similar to pumpkin” — bingo. I ran back inside Woolies and grabbed an armful of sweet potatoes and a spring form pie dish.  We were ready.

I think we spent a good 4 or 5 hours in the kitchen that night.

The pie ended up taking longer than usual because I made the crust from scratch. I used a classic Martha Stewart recipe that seemed simple enough but took its sweet time. Scalloping the edges of the crust was tricky in a spring form dish, but it came together. More importantly, it tasted just like pumpkin pie! I shall definitely be making this again.  An added bonus is that it requires less sugar (sweet potato is naturally sweeter than pumpkin).  Here’s the delicious Paula Deen recipe I followed (nixed the marzipan).

The cornbread, in comparison, was quick and easy.  I ended up making a couple of batches — a more traditional one and one with parmesan and jalapenos.  Pro tip: if you’re living down under and don’t have access to cornmeal, do not resort to cornflour, use polenta instead.  Cornflour is much finer and used as a thickener in soups; polenta isn’t quite as coarse as cornmeal but at least your cornbread will look and taste almost exactly like the American version.

Niraj’s magnum opus was the stuffing. He decided to make it in the crockpot this year and we snuck in quite a few bites during its journey from frying pan to slow cooker.

Add a watermelon and haloumi salad (to-die for recipe from a fellow halloumiholic), a dish of roasted root vegetables, a cheese plate and of course, the turkey, and you’re done. Happy Thanksgiving!

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