A truly authentic gumbo starts with a roux made by slowly cooking equal parts of flour and oil together for nearly 30 minutes until it darkens to the colour of strong coffee. Mine is not an authentic gumbo in that sense, perhaps if I’m honest because I didn’t want to add an extra half hour to the process but mainly because I don’t eat wheat. In other respects, this is the real thing: it contains what Cajuns describe as the Holy Trinity of vegetables – onions, celery and green peppers as well as tomatoes, sausage and okra to which I’ve also added wild shrimp. It may technically resemble more of a stew but it is a delicious and relatively simple meal to make. Try it!

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

You will need:

• Andouille sausage, kielbassa or other spicy sausage, 1lb

• Olive oil

• Low sodium chicken broth, 6 cups

• Diced tomatoes, 1 x 28oz can, with their juice

• Bay leaves, 3 large

• Onions, 2 (I used cooking onions)

• Celery, 4 ribs

• Green peppers, 1 large or 2 small

• Okra, 1lb (I used frozen, 2 x 250g packages)

• Cayenne pepper

• Large shrimp (I used wild shrimp), 2lbs

For my dish I used so-called spicy sausages that I got from my butcher, not being able to find the Andouille sausage and judging the kielbassa to be a bit boring frankly but the choice is yours.

Heat a splash of olive oil a large skillet over medium heat then add the sausages and cook them, turning occasionally, until almost cooked through.  (If using kielbassa sausage just slice it thickly and set aside.) Allow them to cool slightly then slice on the diagonal; set aside.

Put the chicken broth, diced tomatoes with their juice and the bay leaves in a large pot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this stage as the broth reduces and the flavour intensifies.)

Meantime, prep. the vegetables: peel and finely chop the onions, chop the celery then de-seed and finely chop the pepper(s) – you should end up with roughly equal amounts of each vegetable.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low to medium heat then add the chopped vegetables.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened (do not allow to brown).  Add a ¼ teaspoon (or more if you prefer) of cayenne pepper, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, the okra and the sliced sausages to the pot of tomato mixture and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes until the broth has reduced slightly. I like to leave the okra mostly whole but I cut some pieces in half with scissors to help thicken the broth.

Add shrimp and continue to cook for another few minutes until opaque.

Serve by ladling into large bowls. I like to serve my gumbo either with white rice (that I cook with chicken broth) or with freshly baked cornbread on the side. Enjoy!

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

If you don’t already own it, buy yourself a copy of Jeffrey Steingarten’s wonderful book The Man Who Ate Everything; it’s hilarious as well as informative.  In it he describes how authentic paella is made. This is about as far from the real thing as possible while calling itself “paella” but the point here is to create a simple, satisfying meal that captures the spirit of the original.

It is a case where the second meal looks very much like the first so I recommend making it two days later, i.e. if you made gumbo on Monday, serve the paella on Wednesday – leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for that length of time. You will need:

• Chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, 2-3

• Olive oil

• Leftover shrimp & sausage gumbo

• Rice, white, converted

Firstly, heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken pieces well on all sides over medium-high heat then set aside. When slightly cooled, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Remove shrimp from the leftover gumbo and set aside.

Measure the leftovers just so you know how much rice to add; I had 4 cups of leftovers, including sausage and vegetables and used 1 cup of rice.  If, say, you only had 2 cups of leftovers, I’d suggest using half a cup of rice and so on.

Bring the gumbo to the boil on the stove, add the chicken then pour in the rice, stir to combine then let simmer, uncovered, for about twenty minutes until the liquid is virtually all absorbed.

Tuck the shrimp into the rice and continue to cook for another few minutes without raising the heat until the shrimp are heated through.

Ladle into bowls, top with freshly chopped parsley (optional); add hot sauce to taste.

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls, serves 6 with leftovers

The idea for the Rice Bowls comes from Shelley Adams from her wonderful cookbook, Whitewater Cooks, a stunning collection of recipes with a unique West-Coast flair.  I have adapted her version of what she calls Glory Bowls into what is essentially stir-fried, marinated chicken atop steaming bowls of rice with vegetables and cashews drizzled with a tangy dressing.  East meets west in a delicious new way.  You will need:

For the marinade:

• Extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup

• Braggs Amino (or light soy sauce), 2 tablespoons

• Garlic cloves, 2-3, minced

• Fresh ginger, about an inch, peeled and grated

• Liquid honey, 1 tablespoon

• Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 8 large

Combine the marinade ingredients in a jug then pour over the chicken in a large bowl; set aside in the fridge.

Make the rice:

I combined 1 cup of short-grain brown rice and 1 cup of white basmati (I used Lundberg brand) but honestly if you’re planning to make extra for leftovers Uncle Ben’s converted is a great choice, just cook it in chicken broth instead of water for added flavour.

Make the Dressing:

• Nutritional yeast flakes, ½ cup

• Water, 1/3 cup

• Braggs Amino or soy sauce, 1/3 cup

• Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/3 cup

• Garlic, 2-3 cloves, peeled and minced

• Vegetable oil, 1 ½ cups

• Tahini paste, 2 tablespoons

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  You will have leftover dressing to use again; try it on any salad greens, spinach, rice or grains.

For the Rice Bowls:

• Cooked rice, 8 cups

• Carrots, peeled and grated, 2 cups (2 large carrots)

• Green onions, 1 bunch, trimmed and sliced

• Baby spinach, 2 cups

• Dry-roasted cashews, 2 cups

Just as the rice is finishing cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge.

Heat a large dry non-stick skillet over high heat for 4 minutes.  When the pan is very hot, put in the chicken with whatever marinade sticks to it and cook for 4 minutes without moving.  Turn then cook on the other side for another 4 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so or until the chicken is cooked through (do not overcook).  Transfer to a chopping board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Once rested, set aside 2 pieces then cut the remaining 6 pieces into thick slices.

To assemble the bowls: place cooked rice into 6 bowls, top with carrots, green onion, spinach, cashews and chicken, drizzle with dressing.

Set aside the extra 2 cups of cooked rice until cool then cover.  Wrap up the leftover chicken.  Both can be refrigerated safely for up to 2 days.

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp, serves 2-4

If the recipe for Rice Bowls seems a bit fussy this is simplicity itself.  You will need:

• Red bell pepper, ½ large

• Green pepper, ½ large

• Green onions, 1 bunch

• Vegetable oil

• Smoked paprika

• Ham, ½ cup, cubed

• Leftover cooked rice, 2 cups

• Leftover cooked chicken thighs, 2, sliced

• Cooked shrimp, ½ lb

• Chicken broth

First, a bit of preparation: de-seed and roughly chop the peppers, trim and chop the green onions.

In a large non-stick skillet or wok, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat and sauté the peppers.  Add half of the green onions and cook for 1 minute (do not allow to burn). Add about a tablespoon or more of smoked paprika and continue to cook for another minute.  Add in the ham, cooked rice, chicken and shrimp along with ½ cup of chicken broth.  Stir to combine the flavours and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.  Check to see the rice doesn’t get too dry; if it does, add a little more broth.

Serve in bowls with the remainder of the green onions scattered over the top.  Pass the hot sauce (I like Frank’s Red Hot) and enjoy.  Beer would be a good choice of beverage,