Matthew Raiford, cook and farmer, has always wanted to write a cookbook, especially a cookbook about the south. The opportunity arose after he gave one Talking TEDx When Raiford was backstage after the lecture entitled “Legacy in the Soil”, the writer Amy Condon spoke to him. „Amy goes out and says,” Okay, you have to write a book, „says Raiford.” And I just looked at her and said, ‘Yes, if you can help me write.’ ”
The book that Raiford wrote with Condon is called Bress ‘n’ Nyam, a Gullah phrase that means „bless and eat”. And like this TEDx conversation, it delves deep into Raiford’s own family heritage to give readers a sense of place: his corner of the Georgia coast and, more specifically, Gilliard Farms, the land that has been in his family for six generations since 1874 is.
Ultimately with Bress ‘n’ NyamRaiford hopes to “show what this landscape looks like and what this part of the world looks like because I’m not Charleston, I’m not Atlanta, I’m not Savannah, I’m not Florida. I’m kind of caught in that middle, ”he says. „I wanted to write something that refers to this area and my childhood.”
The details of life on Gilliard Farms pear in photos, but also in recipes, such as the recipe for Effie’s Shrimp Creole. Effie is Raiford’s mother. Effie is also the name of his mother’s mom and her grandmother before her, and the history of the recipe goes back almost that far. „It’s about three generations old, if not four,” says Raiford. But it didn’t get the name it bears in the book until Raiford’s mother spoke to a friend from Louisiana about her coastal paella and they discovered its similarities to the Louisiana court. It became a signature. „This was one of the dishes my mom would take to parties … anyone would devour it,” says Raiford. “You know when people go to church and a certain person makes a cake and everyone wants to buy the slices of that cake? My mom’s creole shrimp is like this. ”
Raiford and his family went for the shrimp dish, and it’s this sense of connection between food and place that Raiford hopes readers will take away Bress ‘n’ Nyam. „I want them to think about where they are and what foods or food routes or food systems are in their area that they don’t know about,” he says. „Everyone has a food story and it sometimes only takes a moment to dial everything in. The more you dial in, the more you will find it will be delicious.”
Effie’s Shrimp Creole
When people think of food on the Georgia coast, they think of shrimp and grits. This dish is definitely a reference to the saltwater gullah and geechee who lived on the sea islands. Most of the time, they made the dish with a rich brown sauce or roux that was much more like a gumbo. Freshwater – or mainland – Geechee, like my family, brought something closer to a jambalaya, no okra but rich in tomatoes and red pepper. The rice naturally stretches it. For me, my mother’s shrimp creol, a recipe passed down by the family, is a comfort food.
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, pitted and finely diced
1 red pepper, pitted and finely diced
1 orange pepper, pitted and finely diced
1 16-ounce can of tomato puree
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
2 cups uncooked long grain rice or Carolina Gold Rice
1 liter warm shrimp broth, prepared or homemade (recipe follows)
2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, clams reserved for stock
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 1: In a large cast iron pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in onions and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown.
Step 2: Add the paprika, tomato paste, paprika flakes and rice while stirring until everything is well mixed. Pour in the broth slowly to avoid splashes as the pan gets hot, and bring the creole to a boil. After cooking, stir, cover, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Remove the lid, add the shrimp and stir the rice well. Cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the shrimp are pink and curly. Try and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve and enjoy.
Makes 2 liters
2 liters (8 cups) of cold water
4 cups of shrimp shells
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 rib of celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, including leaves
1 lemon, quartered
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Step 1: Pour the water into a large stock pot and set aside.
Step 2: Rinse and drain the shrimp shells. In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and toss the shrimp shells for 2 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 3: Place the shrimp shells and vegetables in the stockpot and add the lemon, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into quarter- or pint-sized containers. Allow the broth to cool completely, then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for later use.
Excerpt from Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth Generation Farmer. Copyright © 2021 CheFarmer Matthew Raiford and Amy Paige Condon. Photogrhy © 2021 by Siobhán Egan. Reprinted with permission from The Countryman Press, a division of WW Norton & Company. All rights reserved.