Friday, September 24, 2010

Stir in the love

Very fragile today!

Last week I promised a gumbo recipe and I am happy to say I am here to deliver, though you have to realise what it took for me to get it - 6 hours of steady drinking, laughing, dancing and stirring! I am in a bad way with a terrible head and a stiff arm but it was worth the hangover as I now have under my belt the most delicious recipe ever! And because I am so lovely, dear fellow freedom lover, I am going to share with you the recipe for the best thing you ever ate this side of the Mississippi!

Now for those of you going "Gumbo? Never 'eard of it!" then let me enlighten you.
Gumbo is a creole dish, originating in Louisiana made of pretty much whatever you want and served over rice. The word gumbo originates from the African Kingumbo, which means okra. Yes, I know, you hate okra! Everyone hates okra! It is long and furry and snotty and you don't have to include it in your recipe but seeing as the word gumbo means okra it is almost like making a shepherds pie without adding the obligatory shepherd! Gumbo is spicy and healthy and so delicious and once you have made it you will want to bring that steamy aroma of richness into your kitchen all the time.
So, John's brother in law has been promising to teach me how to make gumbo for weeks and finally we got the nod. I made a cake as my offering for the day and off we trotted around 4pm to learn the secrets of the great gumbo! 

Let the gumbo party begin!
Well, it was a small party - 3 people and two dogs but we had a GREAT time!
The dogs were less than helpful if the truth be know! Max, a timid rescue dog yelped off to the bedroom as Talking Heads started to blare out on the kitchen stereo and Luca, a HUGE blockhead retriever who weighs about 150lbs and is still a puppy wanted in on everything! He was so excited, pushing his wet nose in between us when we were chopping onions or measuring flour, with a soggy tennis ball in his mouth wanting to play. We started the party with a toast to gumbo and I was presented with a book "The little Gumbo Book - 27 carefully created recipes that will enable everyone to enjoy the special experience of gumbo". Catchy title!
 My favourite quote from the book is a note at the end of one of the recipes: "Cook tillis done, den odd dem oysters an sassafras leave, maybe two/tree shakes hot sauce in dah bowl"!
The two things I learnt about gumbo is that all ingredients are estimated and you have to keep stirring in the love! 
The hours of chopping and stirring and adding and stirring and dancing and stirring and drinking and stirring were worth it and at 8 pm we sat down to a fantastic meal any salty old Cajun would have been proud of. And, fellow Freedom lovers, because I am so lovely, I am going to share this recipe with you so you too can experience this fantastic gastronomic extravaganza. Now remember, all the ingredients are optional and the amounts are up to you. 
Here goes...
First of all you need to make a roux. No self-respecting Cajun would dream of making a  gumbo without a roux. Add equal parts flour and fat (we used olive oil) into a pan and slowly cook it watching it turn brown and smelling the nuttiness as the flour cooks. The darker the colour the better the roux apparently but don't let it burn. According to the gumbo experts the colour should be mahogany or pecan! It should be the consistency of thick gravy. Now this roux can take 2 hours so start early!!!
Next we chopped a few large onions, added them to the big pot and mixed them into the roux. At this point keep the heat medium as you don't want anything to stick to the bottom. Add a load of chopped green peppers and don't forget after you add each ingredient, stir it in and add a little pepper and salt each time.
If the knives were sharper the chopping would be easier!
parsley, scallions and green peppers

After ten minutes or so, add a load of chopped scallions (spring onions) and a large bunch of fresh chopped parsley. Next is a tin of chopped tomatoes and some white wine to stop everything sticking. Then chop up some garlic and add that to the pan.
Now it should be smelling gorgeous!
Inside the pot where the magic happens!
Take this time to put your shrimp in a plastic bag with some Old Bay Seasoning and let it marinate for a while.
Taking the tails off the shrimp
Then chop up a few spicy sausages and throw them into the pot. We had kilbasa and Andouille but I reckon chorizo would be great too. Pour in the rest of the bottle of white wine and 2 boxes (a litre) of chicken stock.

We couldn't get fresh okra so we had to buy frozen. We fried it up in a pan with some olive oil to get rid of the slime factor and then chucked it in the pot.
After a while we added a bottle of beer and a pint of water. We had a cup of flour and in it we mixed nutmeg, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. Chuck that into the pot and mix well to stop the flour from clumping. I think we also added some chilli pepper flakes but at this point I was quite pissed and we had Radiohead on the stereo so things are a little blurry!

I know we finished up with adding the shrimp, some lump crab meat, "Lee and Perrins" and Louisiana Hot sauce (of course!)
As I said the whole thing took about 4 or 5 hours to cook but it was well worth the wait.
We all peppered it with our love as we took turns to stir too which is really the best ingredient of all.
We served ours over brown rice and had a salad on the side.

All I can say is try it out. Every time you make it apparently, it will be slightly different, until you get the most perfect gumbo that suits you and your family. Then you too can pass it on to someone and share the gumbo love!

Happy cooking!
Let me know how it turns out!


  1. Sophie, seriously - you should have been a writer!!! great blog

  2. I LOVE okra!!!!! Looks fab glad you had a great night xxxxx

  3. Love the last picture! I thought this was a yoga blog, but it seems to be both a cooking and a yoga blog. Interesting!

  4. Oh I'm hungry - really hungry - we are going to do it and will let you know. Give us a few weeks as we it sounds like we need to buy a bloody big pot. Thanks for the idea.