My Mardis Gras Cajun Gumbo

And so it is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and today I am cooking a Cajun classic, Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of stew from southern Louisiana combining the ingredients and techniques of a melting pot of cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. In general, a Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, okra and filé * powder. Native words for either of the last two ingredients are the likely root of the word gumbo. A Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux made from fat and flour and is spicier. Both use a ‘ Holy Trinity ’ of ingredients,  chopped onion, celery and green pepper as a base,  developed from the classic mirepoix. Andouille sausage * or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish, filé and extra spices added near the end.

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*Gumbo filé powder is a necessity for cooking authentic Creole or Cajun cuisine. Filé powder is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, they have a rich, spicy flavour with a hint of eucalyptus. Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun and Creole cooking brought to the United States by French immigrants to Louisiana. It is a course pork sausage flavoured with garlic, pepper, onions and wine.

If you are going to cook Cajan then you can get in the mood with this version of the Hank Williams classic. My Gumbo recipe is no exception, the only time I waiver from the truly authentic is adding a little extra butter to my chicken, sausage and prawns to produce a rich sauce to top the finished dish. As they say in New Orleans,

” Laissez les bons Temps Rouler -let the Good Times Roll “

My Cajun Gumbo                                                                                      serves 4

12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined

4 chicken breasts, butterflied

200 gr Andouille sausage, sliced

200 gr Long Grain Rice

150 gr Butter

50 gr Flour

1 litre quality Chicken Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 tablespoons of Cajun-style seasoning

2 tablespoons Filé powder ( available from a good Deli )

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce ( you can use more if you prefer )

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

In a medium bowl mix the prawns, chicken half the sausage and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun style seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed, saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion, pepper and celery for ten minutes without burning. Remove from the pan and reserve. Melt half of the butter and stir in the flour. Cook out the roux over a gentle heat, stirring continuously until a dark nut brown. Add the cooked trinity, the seasoned chicken, garlic, bay leaves, the sausage, the remaining Creole seasoning and Tabasco sauce. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

In a second pan, cook the rice by bringing the remaining stock to the boil, add the rice and place on a tight cover. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and leave to steam for ten more minutes. Add the prawns to the gumbo and reduce the cooking liquor down by a third until the prawns are cooked. Add the filé powder, the lemon juice, butter and check seasoning. Finish the gumbo with chopped parsley then divide the cooked rice into bowls using a slotted spoon and top with a piece of chicken, prawns, sausage and some cooking liquor.

My Cajun Seasoning

3 tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 tablespoons Onion Powder

2 tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Hot Mustard Powder

1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Dried Thyme

1 tablespoon Salt

½ tablespoon ground Bay Leaves

½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper

Mix in a food processor and store in an airtight container.

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National Seafood Week – Mussels with Beer and Chorizo

This lovely Autumnal recipe pairs two fantastic flavours with fresh mussels and is perhaps my favourite of all the mussel dishes I regularly cook. There is something about the combination of the pungent braised chorizo and aromatic, slightly bitter, beer with the cooking liquor of the mussels which creates a wonderful broth in which to dip great chunks of freshly baked crusty bread. For the beer I would naturally recommend Liberation IPA or Butcombe Bitter of course but Adnam’s Broadside, Fuller’s London Pride or Moorland Old Speckled Hen all give great results, for the braised chorizo recipe follow the link to The Online Cookery School.

Mussels with Beer and ChorizoMussels with Beer and Chorizo Sausage                            generously serves 6 people

2 kg fresh Mussels ( about 350 gr of Mussels per person )
140 gr Braised Chorizo
A good sized nugget of Butter
A slug of quality Olive Oil
6 large Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ pint of deep flavoured Beer
3 tblsp Tomato Puree
A good handful of Parsley, washed and finely chopped
The juice of 1 freshly squeezed Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper

To prepare the mussels see my recipe for the classic Moules Marinières

In a large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté for about ten minutes until they are soft and gently coloured. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, tomato puree, chorizo and a generous few turns of the pepper mill. Stir well and cook for two minutes. Pour in the beer, stir and bring to the boil before tipping in the mussels. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for five minutes until the mussels are all open. Remove the lid and simmer for two more minutes to slightly reduce the cooking liquor. I like plenty of the cooking juices to mop up with lots of crusty bread. Finish the mussels with the lemon juice and lots of parsley and serve.

Sausage, Apple and Thyme Hash

Sometimes you just want simple, full flavoured food. Something more than a snack but perhaps nothing as complicated as a full meal. Hash is a great and easy to prepare dish that can be made with beef, corned beef from a tin is great but flakes of your own cured salt beef is better, confit duck and pulled pork. Hash is a dish made from diced or chopped meat, potatoes, and flavourings such as onions, spices and herbs that are mixed together and then cooked. The name is thought to come from the French verb ‘ hacher ‘ meaning to chop. Corned beef hash became especially popular in Britain, during and after the second world war, when rationing limited the availability of fresh meat.

Sausage Hash

You can add just about anything you want to use up in your fridge and ramp up the heat with lots of pepper and chillies if you so choose. I like the sweetness in this recipe that you get from the onions and apples, a classic flavour combination with pork sausage and make sure there is a real good grind of black pepper for a little kick.

Sausage, Apple and Thyme Hash                                             serves 2

6 grilled, good quality Pork Sausages, from your local butcher

500 gr boiled Baby Potatoes, sliced

2 large Spanish Onions, peeled and finely sliced,

2 Red Peppers, de seeded and sliced

2 Crisp Green Eating Apples

2 fresh free range Eggs ( Duck Eggs if you can get them )

80 ml Vegetable Oil

50 gr Butter

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme leaves

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

A handful of curly Parsley, washed and finely chopped

Heat half of the oil and the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan until foaming. Add the onions and sauté for five to ten minutes, over a medium heat, until they start to soften but not colour. Add the potatoes, peppers, apples and thyme, stir and cook for ten more minutes until the potatoes are starting to colour. Place the sausage pieces in the pan and finish cooking, stirring occasionally. After ten more minutes, the sausages should be thoroughly heated through and the potatoes nicely golden brown. Season generously and keep warm. In a second frying pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the eggs. Stir in all most all the parsley into the hash, transfer into bowls and top with the eggs and remaining parsley.

Saute Squid with Chorizo and Harissa

Warning: This is a Knock your Socks off Dish

Saute Squid with Chorizo
Imagine a full assault on your taste buds, a big, bad, bruising combination of squid, Chorizo, garlic, chilli, salt and spice. The big secret is cooking your squid perfectly and in this recipe it is almost the last ingredient tossed in a very hot wok and sautéed for just a couple of minutes. Your Harissa paste will handily keep for a couple of weeks in an air tight container in your refrigerator and the braised Chorizo likewise. The best thing about this recipe is the great flavour is so easy to achieve and so simple and quick to cook if you use ready prepared Harissa and Chorizo.

I developed my taste for Harissa in Tunisia, searching out Roman ruins and sampling fantastic, fresh and tasty food some fifteen years ago. Harissa is undoubtedly hot with chilli but is also rich with the flavours of coriander, cumin and garlic. It is now available commercially in tins or jars but this pales beside the freshly made product which is quick and simple to make. It can be stirred into stews and tagines, used as a thin crust on baked fish or added to couscous for a really easy taste boost.


My Harrisa

6 to 8 Serrano Chilli Peppers

1 large bunch of fresh Coriander

1 large handful of fresh Mint Leaves

2 bulbs of Garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds

2 tablespoons Cumin Seeds

1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds

1 tablespoon of Smoked Paprika

1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

Zest and juice of 2 large Lemons

100 ml quality Olive Oil

½ teaspoon Sea Salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper


In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan heat and gently toast the whole spices to help release the essential aromatic oils and flavourings. Cool for a few minutes. Place the spices, chilli and garlic into a food processor and blend. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to form a rough paste. Store in a sterilised glass jar covered with a thin film of extra olive oil and sealed with a tight fitting lid.

Sauté Squid with Chorizo and Harissa serves 4

You can buy fresh or frozen prepared squid from your local supermarket or fishmonger, the squid is cleaned and the quill is removed. You can use tinned sweet red pimento peppers for your convenience. Do not season the dish as the olives and Chorizo are sufficiently salty.

3 to 4 prepared Squid ( ask your Fishmonger ), cut in half centimetre slices

250 gr waxy Baby Potatoes, washed and par-boiled then sliced

75 gr braised Chorizo and a little of the flavoured oil

75 gr roast Sweet Red Pepper, sliced

50 gr good quality Black Olives

2 heaped tablespoons of Harissa paste

A small handful of freshly chopped Coriander

Freshly squeezed juice of half a Lemon

Mixed Salad Leaves

Heat the braised Chorizo oil in a wok and sauté the sliced potatoes for around five minutes until golden brown. Add the squid and fry for one minute stirring all the time. Add the peppers, olives and Chorizo and fry for another minute. Then add the Harissa paste and cook out for one further minute. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander and divide on to four bowls of salad leaves.

Super – Patatas Riojanas Soup

The weather forecast for this week is not good, not good at all, we look to have some real stormy, autumnal weather heading for the islands so perhaps it is time to start thinking of some hearty, warming recipes, comfort food like a nice chunky soup. Now personally I am not a big fan of soup, if I get out to eat, I go for the fish or seafood starter and save soup for when my mum makes her thick tomato and bacon version for a big Sunday lunch. But increasing when I am working and not at home with my family, soup is a one-pot wonder. Soup is tasty, nutritious, extremely good value for money, easy to make and you can use lots of store cupboard staple ingredients and most of the odd bits in the fridge.

Now I had some potatoes, onions and Chorizo in my fridge, so in my mind I was thinking something simple with perhaps a Spanish taste, the potatoes soaking up the flavour of the Chorizo. I looked up a recipe and came across Patatas Riojanas, a very simple rustic soup or stew from La Rioja. La Rioja is a small region in the north of Spain, most famous for its high-quality wines, and it has some lovely indigenous dishes. No one is sure about the origins of Patatas Riojanas, but it would not have existed until at least the 19th century and the introduction of potatoes into Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.

Chorizo and Potato Soup

There is a story that Chef Paul Bocuse tasted this casserole in a well-known winery, and after three more plates told everybody Riojan style potatoes were the best food he had ever eaten. The world famous chef also recommended this meal to be the national dish of Spain. I have added a few carrots and some celery to my recipe to make more of a stew than a soup and have to say the result was absolutely delicious and very satisfying.

Patatas Riojanas Soup

750 gr Waxy Potatoes

2 large Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large Carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

3 large sticks of Celery, thoroughly washed and sliced

2 Red Peppers, grilled, skin and seeds removed

250 gr fresh Chorizo Sausage, cut into one-centimetre dice

50 ml good quality extra virgin Olive Oil

600 ml good quality Chicken Stock

A large glass ( 250 ml ) good Spanish White Wine preferably white Rioja

3 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 heaped tablespoon of Plain Flour

1 heaped tablespoon sweet Spanish Paprika

½ teaspoon fresh Thyme Leaves

1 Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley to garnish

Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy bottom pan and gently sauté the Chorizo, sliced onion, carrots and celery for about ten to fifteen minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, then add garlic slices and potato and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook out for two more minutes keeping stirring. Pour in the stock and white wine into the onion and chorizo mixture and add all the remaining ingredients and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low until potatoes are cooked. Be sure to check the level of the cooking liquid adding a little water if needed. When the potatoes are well cooked and start just to break up correct the seasoning, add the parsley, stir and serve.