In the Kitchen with Chef Sherri Whitmire

In the Kitchen with Chef Sherri Whitmire

In the Kitchen with Chef Sherri Whitmire 


Seasonal items, sweet potatoes, stews and rice are just some of the staples of Gullah cuisine. Chef Sherri Whitmire, personal chef with Gullah-N-Geechie Mahn Tours in St. Helena Island, S.C., shares some of her recipes so everyone can enjoy a taste of Gullah cuisine in their own homes.

Sweet Potato Salad

6 medium Sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4-5 parsnips, peeled and cubed

6 strips bacon, rendered and crumbled

Pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

5 tbsp olive oil

1 bunch green onions chopped

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

For the dressing:

¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 tsp honey

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Toss cubed potatoes and parsnips with the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and 5 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange potatoes and parsnips in a single layer on the lined baking sheet pan. Roast in the oven for thirty minutes until potatoes are golden around the edges.  Check the potatoes in about 15 minutes and use a spatula to move potatoes around evenly.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting cook the bacon until golden brown and crispy and set aside in a large bowl with the chopped green onions.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, honey, garlic, parsley and cilantro. Set aside.

When the sweet potatoes are roasted, remove from the oven.  Use a spatula to move potatoes to a paper towel or dish towel to drain slightly.

Toss all salad ingredients together with dressing and sprinkle with the pecans.

Note: Save some of the dressing and toss some salad greens with and serve the sweet potato salad on the greens.

Hoe Cakes

4 cups self-rising cornmeal mix

3 eggs

½ cup oil

½ cup sugar (optional)

2 cups milk



In a bowl combine cornmeal mix and sugar.

Whisk in milk to dry ingredients and whisk in one egg at a time and add oil.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet and add a tablespoon of oil. Drop a spoonful of mix onto skillet and brown cake on one side and flip on the other side to brown until golden.

Serve immediately

West African Chicken Groundnut Stew

2-3 lbs chicken legs, thighs and/or wings

3 tbsp walnut or grapeseed oil

1 large yellow or white onion, sliced

A 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

6-8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly

2-3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 qt chicken stock

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup roasted peanuts

1 tsp cayenne, or to taste

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped


Heat the vegetable oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Salt the chicken pieces well, pat them dry and brown them in the oil. Don't crowd the pot, so do this in batches. Set the chicken pieces aside as they brown.

Sauté the onions in the oil for 3-4 minutes, stirring often and scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes and stir well to combine.

Add the chicken, chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts,  and cayenne and stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and taste for salt, adding more if needed. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 90 minutes (check after an hour), or until the chicken meat easily falls off the bone and the sweet potatoes are tender.

Remove the chicken pieces and set them in a bowl to cool, until cool enough to touch. Remove and discard the skin if you want, or chop it and put it back into the pot. Shred the meat off the bones and put the meat back in the pot.

Adjust the seasonings for salt and cayenne, then add as much black pepper as you think you can stand—the stew should be peppery. Stir in the cilantro and serve by itself, or with simple steamed rice.

Notes: Other vegetables may be added. Spinach and swiss chard work great added at the end of the cooking process.

Yields: 6-8 servings

Sweet Potato Pie

3 lbs sweet potatoes

1 ½ sticks butter

2 cups sugar

3 medium eggs

1 can sweet condensed milk

1 cup milk

2 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

1 tsp pure lemon extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 frozen deep dish pie shells


Boil sweet potatoes until soft.

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.

Peel and mash potatoes. Add butter and add eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly.

Add all other ingredients until well incorporated.

Pour in frozen pie shells evenly and bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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