Sunday, December 13, 2009

Luscious Louisiana

"There is no dish which at the same time so tickles the palate, satisfies the appetite, furnished the body with nutriment sufficient to carry on the physical requirements, and costs so little as a Creole Gumbo. It is a dinner in itself, being soup, piece de rĂ©sistance, entremet and vegetable in one.”

-William H. Coleman,
Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs

Gumbo originated in New Orleans, Louisiana and to me represents multiculturalism in a pot. It combines the flavours of Africa, Spain, Native America and France to produce a dish full of flavour, that owes its heritage to many people and many places. It is said that there are as many ways to cook Gumbo as there are cooks, so you will see many different versions. It is a thick soup/stew that contains rice (if there is no rice actually in it, it is always served with rice on the side) to this, broth and other ingredients are added. Some use pork, chicken, sausage and seafood, some use just vegetables. The Cajun folks tend to make a darker, heavier Gumbo that has a roux (flour and browned butter) as a base and does not use tomatoes. The Creole style uses tomatoes, and okra (which does the same job as the roux, binding the dish) The Native Americans use leaves from the Sassafrass tree to do the same.

My Gourmet Goddess version tonight borrows from the Creole tradition and uses purely seafood. I chose flathead fillets, clams, calamari and prawns. I also used chilli in the dish, which is not usually done - it is usually served seperately in the form of chilli sauce (like Tabasco) so people can add as little or as much as they like. I was just cooking for myself tonight, and I know what I like so I just put the chilli right in there! Feel free to use it or not.

Some notes about the ingredients....

Tabasco Smoked Chipotle Sauce - This particular Tabasco isn't that easy to find in Australia, although if you live in the city, the David Jones Foodhall does stock it in their "American" section. You can also buy it online. USA foods out of Melbourne is a good source if you live in Australia.
 If you can't get it, don't worry - just use normal Tabasco from the supermarket. It will not the have the same slightly smoky undertaste, but it will still taste good.

Okra - If you are not familiar with this vegetable, it is a long green pod native to West Africa and is related to the Hibiscus plant. Although it originated in Africa, it spread with the slave trade and is now eaten all over the world, throughout Asia and the Middle East, America, Nepal and India. When you slice it, it releases a clear sap that helps to thicken any dish that contains it. The texture when cooked is pleasantly gelatinous and it soaks up flavours particularly well. I think that it is at its best in Gumbo.

So, to tonight's dish - this amount will serve 4 people and you can freeze it , but if you do be sure to remove the meat from the clams first and disgard the shells.

Gourmet Goddess Creole Gumbo

You will need: 1 large onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 large potato, 1 tin diced/crushed tomatoes, a couple of handfuls of okra (chop them into three), 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon paprika, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 red chilli chopped finely, 2 white fish fillets chopped into chunky pieces (I used flathead this time), a couple of handfuls of clams in the shell, 6 shelled raw king prawns, 1 medium calamari/squid cut into rings, 1 litre fish or vegetable stock, 1 cup cooked white rice, Tabasco Sauce (the smoked chipotle version if you can get it, otherwise just use the normal one) salt and pepper, olive oil, fresh parsley to serve.

Method : Dice the onion, carrot, celery and potato into small cubes. Heat a splash of olive oil in a deep pan and add the chopped vegetables, along with the bay leaf, garlic and chilli. Cook on a medium heat until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the okra and combine well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, tabasco, sugar and stock. Allow to simmer for 15minutes, then add the cooked rice. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the seafood, combine well season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on the pan and let the seafood cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. The dish is ready when the clams open up (disgard any that do not) Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if you need to.

Serve in soup bowls with fresh parsley.



  1. Fabulous to find a gumbo lover down under. Here is a link to a slightly less complex recipe. Spicy Food Guy so agrees with the alchemy and creativity and soul thing. And a good hot sauce is an elixir for all sorts of ailments.

    Spicy Food Guy

  2. Thanks so much SFG - Am now following your blog :) And yes, there is little that a good hot sauce cant cure!

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