If your partner is as carnivorous as mine is, then this is the perfect Valentine’s dish for you. It is packed full of not only lots of meats (chicken, smoked sausage and bacon), but also with seafood in the form of prawns. It’s indulgent, thick sauce makes this a great treat for a special occasion.
Many people will have heard of Gumbo as being a famous dish from New Orleans. Here, it’s also traditional Mardi Gras food (another festival coming up very soon that you can use as an excuse to try this!). The best thing about Gumbo is that it’s a creole dish, which means that it sort of just takes the best of what all the different cultures have to offer. What’s more, this doesn’t just mean it’s a melting pot of different flavours, but also represents the historical melting pot that is New Orleans! I don’t know if it’s just me, but I found this seriously interesting.
This particular Gumbo recipe uses two thickeners – both ‘roux’ and okra. The roux represents the French settlers influence, and involves cooking equal amounts of fat and flour to make a dark, rich sauce. In Gumbo, you brown all of the meats in this fat so that it really takes up all those different meaty flavours. The longer you cook the roux, the darker and deeper the flavour becomes. The okra on the other hand, is thought to have been brought by the West African slaves who came to Louisiana. In fact, Gumbo is thought to originate from the word ‘kimgombo’, which is the African Buntu name for okra.
The Native American tribes such as the Choctaw are thought to have introduced the European settlers to bay leaves, which are an important element of seasoning to this dish. The smoked sausage isn’t used in every variety, but can be linked to the influence from German settlers. The recipe I used also said chorizo could be used as an alternative to smoked sausage: another little nod to the European settlers, but to the Spanish this time. The Spanish influenced further ingredients in this dish, from when the Spanish government reportedly encouraged people from the Canary islands to settle in Louisiana. They were primarily fisherman, bringing the ingredient of prawns but also the popular spice of cayenne peppers. And finally, the vegetables used in this dish apparently consist of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of vegetables in Louisiana: onions, bell peppers and celery.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything where pretty much every ingredient has a story behind it! So now you can not only impress your friends and family (or date) with the food, but you can dazzle them with your historical knowledge. You’re welcome.
Ingredients (To Serve 4)
- 50ml vegetable oil
- 6 chicken thighs, with skins and bones on
- 2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced (or you can use 100g bacon lardons)
- 200g smoked sausage, cut into 1cm slices
- 50g plain flour
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green pepper, cored and diced
- 2 celery sticks, diced
- 4 garlic gloves, finely grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme thyme (or you can tie up a small bunch of fresh thyme)
- 500ml chicken stock
- 250ml tomato juice
- 100g okra, sliced into rings
- 100g raw prawns
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- small handful of chopped parsley, to serve (optional)
How to make it…
- Heat the oil in a deep, large saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for several minutes, until browned. Remove the chicken from the pan using a slotted spoon and leave on a plate. Next, add the beacon and cook for a few minutes, until it turns a golden colour. Then also remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon, and add the bacon to the plate of chicken. Finally, repeat with the smoked sausage. Once browned, also remove the sausage from the pan and add this to the plate of meat.
- Add the flour to the fat in the pan (there should be a fair bit of fat in the pan at this stage). Stir constantly while it cooks for around 8-10 minutes, until it starts to darken to a golden brown colour and form a thick, smooth paste. At this point, add the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika and leave to cook for another minute.
- Next, add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the sauce. Stir frequently while you cook this for a few minutes, leaving the vegetables to soften. Then, add the bay leave and thyme.
- Return the chicken, bacon and sausage to the pan, with the chicken stock and tomato juice. Bring to the boil, and then lower the heat and leave to simmer for around 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the okra and cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. Finally, add the prawns and cook for around 3-5 minutes on a higher heat, or until they turn pink and are cooked through.
- Serve topped with the spring onions and chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper. To be enjoyed on it’s own or with rice.
Adapted from Tom Kerridge’s ‘Prawn and Chicken Gumbo’