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Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen

Daufuskie Island’s famous chef, author and cultural historian shares a few time-tested family recipes.

Story by Carolyn Males

LOCAL SINCE 1958 – Sallie Ann Robinson is sixth-generation Gullah, raised on Daufuskie Island. She is a cookbook author, a celebrated chef and a cultural historian. ©Haig Point

Open a cookbook by celebrated Gullah chef Sallie Ann Robinson, and you’ll find yourself on a culinary journey to Daufuskie. With Robinson as tour guide, we travel back in time to her island roots where she tantalizes us with entries like Braised Beef Short Ribs and Baby Carrots, Sweet Potato Cornbread, and Peach Upside-Down Cake while offering up childhood memories and observations about ‘Fuskie folkways. Learn about cast nets as you cook up Island Fried Garlic Blue Crabs or about holiday fare like red peas and rice (guaranteed to bring good luck for the coming year) while you cook up her Momma’s Pineapple Bread Pudding.

Easy pickings – This is a very special and easy dessert. Momma would make this for us after we spent hours picking blackberries, making all the work worth it.

Sallie Ann Robinson – Blackberry dumplins

©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 pound fresh or frozen blackberries

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Ingredients (dough)

1 cups self-rising flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (Crisco or lard, but not oil)

1/4 to 3/4 cup water

Directions [1] Place the blackberries and sugar in a medium saucepot with 1 cup water, and bring to a boil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until it thickens to a sauce. Reduce the heat to low and keep the blackberries warm as you make the dough. [2] In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and vegetable shortening with ¼ cup water. Add more water, up to ¾ cup, as needed until the dough is loose and soft enough that you can scoop it out with a spoon. [3] Increase the heat of the blackberry pot to medium. [4] Scoop 1 teaspoon dough at a time and drop it into the saucepot of blackberries. When the dough rises to the top of the blackberry sauce, use a tablespoon to turn it so the dough cooks evenly as it hardens. Drop in as many teaspoons of dough as you can at the same time, but leave a little room between them for the dough to swell. When all the dough is turned and has the consistency of a doughnut, the blackberry dumplings are ready to eat.

Shrimply the best – You can eat these tasty burgers on buns or just by themselves with a little tartar sauce.

Sallie Ann Robinson – ‘Fuskie shrimp and blue crab burger

©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 pound small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound lump crabmeat, loosened or picked through

1/2 onion, finely diced

1-2 teaspoons salt

1-2 teaspoons pepper

1-2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons self-rising flour

Ingredients (for serving):

Lemon wedges

8 hamburger buns

Mayonnaise or tartar sauce

Pickles, tomatoes, and cheese

Directions [1] Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. [2] In a large mixing bowl, combine the shrimp, crabmeat, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter, and flour and mix well. [3] Divide the mixture into 8 portions and use your hands to form them into patties. [4] Fry 4 patties at a time for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on both sides. Drain the patties on a platter lined with paper towels. [5] Put the burgers on buns with your favorite garnishes or eat by themselves, and enjoy.

Mumbo gumbo – Some folks put okra in the pot without frying it, but I like to fry it first because it is less slimy and adds better texture to the gumbo.

Sallie Ann Robinson – Gullah chicken gumbo

©Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 onion, diced

1/2 large green bell pepper, diced

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

10-12 tomatoes, diced

1/2 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 pounds white and dark meat chicken pieces, bone in, skin on

1 1/2 to 2 pounds okra, cut into 1-inch rounds

Rice, biscuits, or cornbread, for serving

Directions [1] In a large stockpot, heat ½ cup of the oil over medium-high heat, then stir in the onion and bell peppers and fry for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, basil, thyme, and 1½ quarts water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring on occasion. [2] Taste to check the seasoning, then add the chicken and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring on occasion, until the chicken is fork tender, but not falling from the bone. Set aside. [3] Heat the remaining 1 cup oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, then add the okra and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, turning, until it begins to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. [4] Add the fried okra to the gumbo pot and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot with your choice of rice, biscuits, or cornbread.

In her latest book, Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen, she beckons us in with stories of her family dinner table. “Come mealtime, Momma would call out to us to come eat. We already knew it was coming because the aroma of good food had connected with our senses, and we would hurry up to finish our work outside.”

So, now let’s head into Sallie Ann Robinson’s kitchen and eat!

O yeah!

Sallie Ann Robinson was featured in the July/August issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. She shared her life story with the popular publication and offered this gem of a quote: “Daufuskie has changed dramatically since I was a kid: fewer longtime residents, bigger houses, a golf course where there used to be tall grasses. But I still feel my ancestors’ spirits all the time. I know they were the ones who guided me back home.”