Gumbo ya ya

It’s Spring in Australia and already I can feel more warmth in the sun’s rays and we’ve been getting some lovely sunshine. In Melbourne we get a long grey drizzly winter, so it’s very welcome. But it’s still not quite there yet, and on a cooler day like today, a warm spicy stew is the way to end the day (and a good way to start the week too).

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that okra is in season right now. It’s not a particularly common vegetable here, and most supermarkets and greengrocers don’t carry it. But it’s a useful vegetable to have around if you want to cook gumbo, the Cajun stew from Louisiana in the USA’s Deep South. When it is sliced up, it exudes a sticky sap-like substance which is cooked away, and it thickens up the gumbo nicely.

I originally found this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine, which I subscribed to for years when I lived in California. It’s not on the Epicurious website, though, so I’m glad I kept this issue.

Gumbo is a dish that takes a while to set up, but then it happily simmers away for a couple of hours while you do other things, like bake cupcakes for your daughter to take to school. It’s a little spicy, so maybe not the most kid-friendly, but it sure is tasty! Serve it over rice.

Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo

Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit, November 1992.

Serves 8

12 cups water
1 chicken cut into 4-6 pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
500g okra, sliced
1/2 cup plain flour
500g chorizo sausage, cut into 2cm thick slices
2 400g cans diced tomatoes and their juices
1 green capsicum (pepper), chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
large pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp filé powder

Combine water and chicken in a stock pot or large saucepan and simmer for an hour or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken pieces to a bowl and cool. Once cool, discard skin and remove meat from bones. Reserve 4 cups of the chicken stock.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat and cook okra, stirring frequently, until it’s no longer sticky, about 15-20 minutes.

Make a roux by heating the flour and remaining oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently until the roux is a deep golden colour. It should take about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved chicken stock, okra, sausage, tomatoes, capsicum, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered for 1.5 hours until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Spoon off fat from the surface and then add chicken and filé powder, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

Notes:

1. I’ve used chorizo sausage as andouille sausage is not available in Australia. Kielbasa or another spicy smoked sausage could also be used.

2. Making the roux is an important step, so don’t rush it. Keep it moving as it starts to colour so that it doesn’t burn.

3. Filé powder is made from ground sassafrass leaves and can be found at some specialty spice shops. It’s not essential, but it helps thicken the gumbo and adds a delicate flavour.

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