A Louisiana classic to feed any hungry crowd
This sausage & prawn gumbo is a great crowd-pleaser.
COOKING TIME: 1.5 hrs
DIFFICULTY: not too tricky
IDEAL FOR: crowd-pleaser, family
BUDGET: £ – ££ (it depends on what seafood you want to put in)
Wine pairing: I nice cold lager!
Shrimp, shrimp, shrimp
Just like Bubba says in Forrest Gump…
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea.
You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it.
Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo.
Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried.
There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.
That- that’s about it.”
So, I decided to give shrimp gumbo a whirl.
But what is gumbo??
Gumbo vs jambalaya
First things first… what is gumbo?
In a nutshell, it’s a savoury stew made with meats and shellfish and some vegetables and herbs.
And the main difference between a gumbo and a jambalaya is rice.
In a gumbo, you serve rice separately.
But in a jambalaya, the rice goes in the pot, a bit like a paella.
A gumbo is thickened by either using okra, file powder (ground sassafras leaves) or by a roux.
The roux. Key to a good gumbo
So, making gumbo for the first time, I had read about the roux.
And how important it is to be patient and go for a dark roux.
As this adds a deep, rich flavour.
But I will admit, I wasn’t as patient as I had set out to be and only got it as dark as peanut butter.
However, next time, I’ll be more prepared to be patient and get it nice and dark.
A roux is only two ingredients; flour and butter.
But it seems like in the States they use flour and oil.
Which is used in the gumbo roux recipe.
Then, it’s pure patience as you need to stir together for approx. 30 – 45 mins.
Now, you can see why I quit too early.
Next time I’ll put some tunes on and just enjoy a bit of drifting-off-in-my-own-thoughts while I create a dark roux.
So for the gumbo roux, it needs to have the consistency of dough.
The ‘holy trinity’
Gumbo is made with the Cajun Holy Trinity.
A bit like mirepoix in French cookery, this is made up of celery, bell pepper, and onion.
This is a special double-smoked sausage that gets used in gumbos.
But I’m not going to lie, they aren’t found easily in butchers or supermarkets.
I had to go online to buy them.
Having said that, you can easily substitute them with spicy Italian sausage or chorizo.
And your sausage & prawn gumbo will still knock it out of the park on taste.
So, the first thing that comes to mind.
Apart from Bubba and Forrest Gump.
Is Southern food. The Deep South. Louisiana.
And that’s not wrong.
But it’s more complicated than that.
Gumbo has a long, rich culinary history.
It brings together three separate cultures.
European, Native American and West African.
And it’s these three cultures that have created this crazy, tasty dish, in America’s Deep South.
Cajun aka Acadians are an ethnic group mainly living in Louisiana.
The British drove the captured French colony from Acadia (now Nova Scotia) to Louisiana in the 18th century.
But Cajun cuisine incorporates West African, French and Spanish cooking techniques into its original cuisine.
During colonial times, enslaved Africans brought were using okra and creating similar dishes.
So, the roots of gumbo run deep.
Sausage & prawn gumbo
I think this dish is a great one for a large gathering.
It’s hearty and tastes great.
And, in my opinion, is nice than a paella.
But next time, I will try harder to get that rich dark roux.
And see if it takes it to a new level of flavour.
What’s your favourite Lousiana dish? Leave a comment.
Sausage and prawn gumbo
- 1.5 litres chicken or beef stock
- 12 large raw king prawns
- 500 g Andouille sausage (or quality smoked spicy sausage) cut into rough chunks
- olive oil
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 5 tbsp (heaped tbsp) plain flour
- 2 large green peppers (or red or yellow)
- 1 large onion
- 3 sticks of celery
- 5 fresh bay leaves
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1 x 400 g tin of plum tomatoes
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 600 g white meaty fish
- 300 g fresh cockles or clams
- 1 lemon
- In a stockpot, warm the stock over low heat. Peel the prawns (keeping the tails on), throwing the heads and shells into the stock pan as you go. De-vein the prawns by running the tip of a knife down the backs of the prawns. Then score a little deeper so they butterfly as they cook.
- Now, in a large casserole dish add sliced the sausages and on a medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cook for 10 mins, or until they have released their tasty fat.Once done, remove the sausages to a plate but leave the fat in the pan to make the roux with.
- On low heat, stir the butter and flour into the pan, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the casserole dish from the sausages.Now, it's time to be patient. Keep stirring for 25 – 40 mins, or until dark golden brown. The darker the tastier. You want the roux to have a semi-loose, doughy consistency.
Cajun holy trinity
- Deseed the peppers, peel the onion and roughly chop with the celery, and stir (this holy trinity) into the roux pan. Scrunch and add the bay leaves and strip in the thyme leaves, then peel, finely chop and add the garlic, followed by the cayenne and Tabasco.Put the sausage back into the pan, add the tomatoes, stirring as you go.Strain the stock through a sieve (to catch the shells and heads if you used fresh prawns) then add the stock and let simmer away for 10 mins.Finely chop the parsley.Slice the fish into nice chunks. Sort through the cockles or clams and tap them – if any stay open, throw them away.Now, add all the fish and seafood to the pan and simmer for a few mins, or until perfectly cooked – the prawns should be pink and the clams or cockles open (discard any that remain closed), stirring regularly.Squeeze over lemon juice to taste, and scatter with the chopped parsley.
- Serve with rice and peas (mixed).