Chef’s Dish: Lesley Draper talks to Pitmaster Jeffrey Wright

Pitmaster Jeffrey Wright at the smoker

Pitmaster Jeffrey Wright at the smoker

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November is synonymous with bonfires and fireworks in the UK, but across the Atlantic it’s all about Thanksgiving – which also means pumpkin pie.

And all-American Jeffrey Wright will be celebrating in traditional style, despite the fact that home these days is downtown Sheffield.

Jeffrey is pitmaster and founder of the BBQ Collective, a US-style restaurant based at The Hop bar in city-centre West One.

A former investment banker, he never forgot his love of barbecues, learned as a child in Minneapolis.

“I started cooking at the age of 10, and in restaurants at 14… and that passion never left me,” he says.

So when the opportunity came to turn his back on banking and set up the BBQ Collective, Jeffrey seized it.

The business began in London, catering at large-scale events. Last Thanksgiving that included the American NFL international series at Wembley Stadium.

“We served BBQ to 90,000 hungry fans about to attend the Dallas Cowboys game – so this is an especially important holiday for us.”

Jeffrey and wife Mat, who’s also his business partner, were keen to open a restaurant and when the chance came to run the food offering at The Hop, they were happy to move north.

“Mat and I are very much based in Sheffield and we love it here.”

The BBQ Collective has proved a big success, not just with the locals but with the experts too – Thailand’s top chef Ian Kittichai and Michelin-starred Richard Neat, longstanding friends, have both visited since it opened in August.

So there’s plenty for Jeffrey and Mat to celebrate this Thanksgiving and they’re hoping their customers will join in too.

“The holiday is a bit of a mystery to those outside the US. Is it really about giving thanks? About making peace with Native Americans? Or is it about gorging on a huge meal and watching the Dallas Cowboys?

“Though it’s kind of about all of the above, these days it really is about being with family and, yes, being thankful for how fortunate we are in life,” says Jeffrey.

He is planning to host a Thanksgiving dinner the The BBQ Collective on November 26 – culminating, of course, with pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are native to North America and the first pie recipe was published in the 17th century. “It has evolved over time and geography, but the basic elements haven’t changed that much: pumpkin purée, sugar, spices, eggs and cream.

“We’re sharing a recipe that we love, is easy to make, and will be on offer at The BBQ Collective @ The Hop over the holidays. So, a bit of a homecoming for us all.”

Recipe by: Jeffrey Wright

Pumpkin pie with pistachio crust

INGREDIENTS:

(serves 8)

Pastry

225 plain flour

110g unsalted butter

80g caster sugar

1 large egg

35g Pistachios, shelled and blitzed until fine

Filling

750g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced

140g caster sugar

25g butter (melted)

175ml milk

2 beaten eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

METHOD:

PASTRY

Rub together butter, sugar, flour and blitzed pistachios until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add egg and bring the dough together to form a ball.

Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 mins.

Preheat oven to 180ºC

Roll out pastry on a floured surface and line a 22cm loose-bottom tart tin.

Line pastry with baking parchment then fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice).

Bake for 15 mins, remove beans and paper and bake again for a further 10 mins. Allow to cool.

FILLING

Boil Pumpkin or squash until tender (about 15mins); cool.

Push soft pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, beaten eggs, melted butter and milk.

Mix in the pumpkin puree and add finished mixture to baked pastry

TO FINISH

Heat oven to 220ºC. Bake for 10 mins then reduce temperature to 180ºC and bake for a further 35-40 mins until filling has just set.

Allow to cool then dust with the nutmeg and serve with vanilla ice cream.