Saturday, August 16, 2008

don't be a dumbo, try some jumbo gumbo

Here's a recipe for you. It's very very easy, so there really is no excuse. I was hosting a poker night on Friday and I'd promised to feed everyone, so the gargantuan vat of stew option seemed like the way to go.

Cajun Gumbo

Here's what you need, presented in both picture and word form. These quantities make something ridiculous like enough for 12-14 people, so feel free to scale down as appropriate. Bear in mind though that it's no more difficult to make lots, like the meatballs (although this requires a mere fraction of the preparation time) and you can always freeze the leftovers.

  • A couple of large onions
  • Garlic - several cloves, or you could do what I did and just use a couple of big scoops from a jar of pre-chopped stuff
  • Chillies - a few, or again you could go with the lazy option - a couple of scoops again
  • Chicken - this is around 2.5kg, a mixture of boneless thighs and diced boneless breast. The original recipe called for bone-in thighs and drumsticks, but boneless is easier.
  • Chorizo sausage - I've got one and a half of the U-shaped ones that you can get in Tesco and Sainsbury's here, just because that's what I had in the fridge.
  • A jar of passata
  • A couple of tins of tomatoes
  • A 3-pack of mixed peppers
  • Okra - 3 biggish packs. This is very important, as technically it's the okra that makes it a gumbo (as it's an alternative name for the vegetable). It's a tough sell, okra, as it's a bit weird, what with the gluey texture when you cut it up, but it's perfect for stews like this as the glutinousness thickens the sauce up. I've made this dish a lot, and I have had to manage without the okra occasionally, as you can't always get hold of it, and I can tell you it's just not the same.
  • Fresh coriander
Right. Chop up the onions and peppers and dice the chorizo (quite small). That lot and the garlic and chilli go in a pan with some olive oil.

Fry them a bit - the chorizo will leak its oily goodness everywhere and turn everything orange. This is a good thing. Then dice up the chicken (leave it quite chunky) and lob it in.

Toss that about a bit until it starts to colour (probably orange, again). Then empty the passata and the two tins of tomatoes in. Grind lots of black pepper in and a handful of dried mixed herbs. A generous splash of red wine vinegar and lemon juice wouldn't hurt at this stage, as well. You'll probably need a bit of water to top up the liquid levels - feel free to use vegetable or chicken stock if you like, but it's not really necessary. Then chuck in the okra.

What's true of stews in general is doubly so of this one - it's at its absolute best on the day after you make it, or even the day after that, as the flavours really develop as the whole thing thickens up and everything starts to disintegrate. After day 3 you probably won't have any left anyway, and it'll start to go a bit soupy, though it'll still taste great. Don't be tempted to bugger about refrigerating it between reheatings (if you've made a vat as big as the one pictured you won't be able to get it in the fridge anyway), just put a lid on it to stop flies and buzzards flying in and leave it on the stove top (remember to turn the gas off though).

The coriander (chopped up) goes in 5-10 minutes before you eat it. Best accompaniments are either some plain white rice, or lots of garlic bread. And beer; you need beer.

That's it. Simple. Like I say, leftovers can be frozen, but in my experience that's generally not an issue.

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