March 4th, 2014
To celebrate Mardi Gras, I had originally intended to make savoury and sweet pancakes for a group of friends but while I was thinking about savoury fillings, it occurred to me that it might be more fun to cook a Jambalaya as the main course and follow it with sugar and lemon pancakes – Jambalaya being something traditional that would be eaten on Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Jambalaya typically contains meat, sausage, seafood, vegetables and rice. It’s said to have originated in and around New Orleans and is perhaps a New World paella combining French, Spanish and African cuisine. There are two main types, a Creole Jambalaya would contain tomatoes and be specific to New Orleans, whereas a Cajun Jambalaya would be made without tomatoes and often contain game meat such as alligator, duck, nutria, venison, etc. Cajun cuisine is common to the rural population of Louisiana, outside of New Orleans and of French Arcadian decent. Both Cajun and Creole styles of cooking would use a trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion as key ingredients. The word Jambalaya comes from the Provençal jambalaia – a mixture, combination and also a pilau of rice .
Creole style Jambalaya recipe (serves 6):
1 lb diced chicken meat
1 andouille (spicy smoked pork sausage), or in Britain, a hot chorizo ring could be a reasonable substitute (sliced)
1/2 lb large raw prawns
1 large onion (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
2 medium bell peppers (chopped)
1 fresh chilli pepper (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
6 or 7 medium sized tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped) or 1 can
a sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
a small bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 lb paella or risotto rice – long grain rice would be used in America
1 pint of home made chicken stock
Extra virgin olive oil (as required)
a splash of balsamic vinegar
Cajun seasoning (to taste): 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a pinch of fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons pimentón de la Vera (picante) – all mixed together
1 teaspoon of hot smoked pimentón
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons of hot smoked pimentón
a large pinch of dried crushed chilli
a large glug of olive oil
I bought a medium sized chicken, cut the meat off and then cooked the carcass with vegetables in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes to make the chicken stock.
Put the diced raw chicken into a plastic bag or container and mix thoroughly with the chicken marinade. Refrigerate for 24 hours before using.
When ready to cook the main dish, fry the sausage in olive oil until it browns a little. Remove from the pan and fry the onions, adding the celery, garlic and peppers after the onions have become translucent. Cook the chicken and marinade in with the vegetables until it has taken some colour. Return the sausage to the pan, along with the tomato, thyme and bay leaves. Cover and cook gently for 15 minutes or so.
Taste the Jambalaya and adjust the flavour with more Cajun seasoning, pimentón, etc. and add a splash of Balsamic vinegar. Stir in the rice and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in some warmed chicken stock. Don’t add all the stock at once, but instead pour some in every ten minutes or so and stir the dish to stop the rice sticking to the bottom (do keep the heat on low and the pan covered). Add the raw prawns about ten minutes after the rice goes in, prawns don’t need to cook for too long or they become rubbery. Rice varieties have different cooking times, so use the time on the packet for guidance and be prepared for it to take an hour, since the rice is being cooked gently as opposed to boiling. This can be cooked on low in the oven if the pan has a lid – that way there will be no food burnt on the bottom.
When the rice is tender sprinkle chopped coriander or parsley on the top and serve.
Audrey made a mixed leaf salad, with radishes, celery, kohlrabi and walnuts.
Six of us wolfed down the Jambalaya as if there were no tomorrow before taking it in turns to toss pancakes for pudding. Miraculously none ended up on the floor or ceiling. Pancake recipe here.
Rather a large quantity of alcohol was consumed – as Jambalaya is a hearty, spicy dish I recommend a robust red wine such as Carta Roja, Jumilla.
I will of course be fasting for the duration of lent …not!