One of the minor irritations of living on an island is shopping for specific items. With only a couple of small grocery stores you never really know what's going to be available so it's pretty pointless to go shopping with a list. In the summer I see city people wandering through the market looking increasingly desperate as they realize that they won't be able to find the smoked paprika and bomba rice they need for their paella.
A few weeks ago I decided to make a pumpkin pie to take to a pot luck for Thanksgiving. The friend who was hosting is wheat and lactose intolerant so I thought it would be a fun to try to come up with something that didn't taste like a compromise. I didn't really have the time to cut up and cook the pumpkin from scratch so I stopped into our market to buy a can of organic pumpkin. It should have come as no surprise that the pumpkin spot on the shelf was completely bare. After a fruitless search of the back room the kind person who worked there suggested that I try sweet potato as a substitute. I also picked up some pecans and oatmeal for the crust and a can of coconut milk to stand in for the dairy. Here is the happy result of my experimentation:
Sweet Potato, Maple, and Coconut Pie with a Pecan Crust
For the Crust:
3/4 cup oatmeal (quick oats are fine)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 - 4 tablespoons neutral-flavoured vegetable oil
In the bowl of a food processor process the oatmeal and pecans until finely ground. Add the brown sugar and combine. Add just enough oil to make the mixture clump together when you squeeze it with your fingers. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan.
2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes (often labeled yams in Canada)
1 cup coconut milk (shake the can or process in blender or food processor)
1/2 cup dark maple syrup
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon (preferably freshly ground)
Heat the oven to 425 F. Roast the sweet potatoes for 40 minutes to an hour or until they can be pierced easily with a fork. Allow to cool slightly and peel. Place them in the bowl of a food processor and puree until completely smooth. Measure out 2 cups (save the rest to use in soup). Scrape the pumpkin into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake the pie for 45 minutes to one hour or until it is slightly puffed around the sides but still jiggles a little in the centre. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Decorate the top with candied or toasted pecans. (I tossed the pecans in a bit of sugar, cinnamon, and oil and baked them at 300 until they were toasted).
I really like this pie. The maple flavour was subtle, the coconut not too overpowering, and the balance of spices was just about right. The crust held together much better than I thought it would. It's a keeper!