Recipes

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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Recipes

Brunch or lunch?

We caught up with old friends this morning. They used to be our neighbours until we moved to a bigger house, and we kind of lost track of each other over the last few years. Earlier this year they had a baby of their own, and today they came over for brunch, or lunch, or whatever you like to call it.

To make things easier for myself I thought I’d serve a dish that I could prepare the night before. This recipe is based loosely on a few recipes from Bon Appetit magazine from about 15 years ago—a variety of recipes can be found on the Epicurious website using the search term “strata“. To me it’s a lot like a bread pudding, albeit a savoury one. I mixed and matched from a couple of recipes, tweaking it to suit the ingredients I had to hand.

It’s a really simple recipe and takes about 15 minutes to set up. Tastes pretty good too, eggy, without being overpowering, nicely cheesy, a spicy kick from the sausage. It’s simple to change around ingredients to get a different flavour, think prosciutto and goats cheese, or fetta cheese and olives, or artichoke hearts and roasted veges. A good brunch dish or a simple supper, or a make-ahead Christmas day breakfast.

And it went down a treat, along with some good conversation.

Chorizo, cheese and vege bread pudding

Serves 4-6

2 chorizo sausages
olive oil
10-12 thick slices of white bread
200g grated cheddar cheese
1 red capsicum, cut into strips
1 spring onion, sliced finely
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
5 large eggs, lightly whisked
2.5 c milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper 

Slice sausage into half-rounds about 1/2 cm thick and fry over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Drain on paper towel.

Remove crusts from bread, and cut each slice into 4-6 squares. Mix bread, sausage, cheese, capsicum, tomatoes, spring onions and basil in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, milk, and mustard in a bowl or jug and season to taste. Pour over bread mixture and stir gently to combine.

Use olive oil or butter to lightly grease a rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish. Spread bread mixture evenly across and chill for at least 2-3 hrs, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 180C and bake for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

1. The crusts can be left on the bread if preferred.

2. Ingredients can be substituted to suit your own tastes: use a different kind of smoked sausage or replace with ham, bacon or proscuitto, vary the vegetables, replace some of the cheddar cheese with feta or goats cheese, add olives or sundried tomatoes, try sourdough bread instead of white.

Recipes

Almost risotto

I like risotto and rice dishes made with arborio rice, but really, who has time to stand there stirring for 45 minutes? Especially with two or three kids snapping at the heels, whinging about how hungry they are. So I love cooking oven-baked risotto-style meals, which are much easier to put together. These recipes follow the initial steps of risotto-making, but instead of stirring the stock in, one ladleful at a time, it’s added all at once and put into the oven to absorb.

The resulting rice is not quite as creamy as properly made risotto, but stirring in some parmesan and even butter at the end can bring it close.

I’ve found that the trick with these recipes is to make sure the stock is brought to a simmer just before it’s added to the dish. I’ve tried a few variations of these recipes and this seems to be the critical step for making sure the rice cooks properly.

This particular recipe is not a cheesy risotto, however. Instead it has a Spanish influence, with chorizo sausage and smoky paprika. It comes from an Australian Women’s Weekly special issue I picked up last year.

Oven-baked Chicken and Chorizo Risotto

Adapted from Winter Favourites Special 2011, published by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4-6

4 c (1L) chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
2 chorizo sausages, sliced thinly
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
3 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 c arborio rice
2 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 180C.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan (keep covered so it doesn’t evaporate too much).

Heat 1/2 Tbs olive oil over high heat in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish with a lid. Fry the chorizo until it is browned all over. Remove from dish. If necessary, pour out excess oil so that about 1 Tbs remains.

Add the chicken and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and saute the onions and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red capsicum and saute for another minute. Then add the rice and paprika and stir for a minute or so, until the rice is coated in the onion mixture and the grains are starting to go opaque.

Pour in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated. Then add back the chicken and pour over the hot stock, and bring back to a simmer. Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, stirring about halfway through. Add the chorizo back to the pan, and stir for a minute or so until chorizo heats back up.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Notes:

1. I used a sweet smoked paprika, but a hot smoked paprika would be nice too.

Recipes

Quick and spicy dinner

Some nights round here, there isn’t a lot of time, or for that matter, inclination, to cook. It’s good to have a few quick recipes on hand to make an easy meal from ingredients you have on hand.

This recipe is based loosely on the Italian pasta sauce alla Amatriciana—a spicy tomato based sauce flavoured with smoky bacon. But in this version, I have replaced the bacon with chorizo sausage, which amps up the spicy factor a bit more.

The whole dish takes about 20 minutes to throw together, which is perfect when you’re juggling homework, bathtime and bedtime.

Penne with tomato and chorizo sauce

Adapted from The Food I Love, by Neil Perry

Serves 2

1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced about 0.5cm thick
1 400g can diced tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200g penne
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Put water on for pasta.

Heat olive oil in a frypan over medium-high heat and fry onion for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden.

Add garlic, dried pepper flakes and chorizo sausage and saute for 3-4 minutes until sausage starts to brown around edges.

Add tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta until al dente.

Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Divide into two pasta bowls and add parmesan cheese to taste.

Notes:

1. If the sauce thickens up a bit too much, add a bit of the pasta cooking water to the pan to thin it out.