There's something magical about soul food. It warms you from within and gives you that feeling like you just got a big cuddle from someone you love.
Gumbo is a recipe that originates from U.S state of Louisiana, which is home to Creole food. Creole food is a blend of West African, French and Spanish predominantly.
The first time I tried Creole cuisine was a few years ago in Melbourne at an event called Fat Tuesday. There were gumbo food trucks, live jazz and merriment and it was a small taste of what Mardi Gras would be like in New Orleans. I was hooked.
What's not to love about gumbo? It's a soup/stew with chicken, sausages and prawn swimming in a dark, rich, tasty pool of gravy served with rice.
I did run into some trouble sourcing ingredients here in Australia but I'm pretty sure I have the flavours nailed. Original recipes call for gumbo filè or sassafras, which is impossible to find but sassafras according to the internet has an aniseed taste so I substituted with a star anise. The gumbo file is also used to thicken the soup and added at the end so I used cauliflower flour to help with that. Im currently on a keto lifestyle so this was a good low carb substitute and it did add a lovely nutty flavour to it that was unexpected.
The other ingredient that is not readily available to the general public is Andouille sausage or Kielbasa. Both of these items I've seen on menus in restaurants but hard to come by if you're just a pleb. Or perhaps I just don't know where to look for them. Also, I didn't really want to waste too much time sourcing ingredients. I asked a few delis and found that polish sausage was going to be the closest I was going to get with flavour and texture.
Let me tell you, it's going to be my go-to from now on. Polish sausage has a low smokey flavour to it and doesn't break down if you cook it for too long and honestly every time I got a bite of sausage with the gumbo, it was heaven,
I made this on the first day of winter and it was the best decision. In Melbourne, we were 4 days back into our 4th lockdown since the pandemic and it was exactly what we all needed collectively, a big cuddle from someone you love. Hope you enjoy this recipe and make it for someone that needs a hug. Stay safe.
Time: 1.5 hours including prep time
500g skinless chicken thighs, diced
250g prawns, peeled and deveined
1 polish sausage
1tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 tbsp cajun spice
1 star anise
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
2 tsp cauliflower flour
Heat a large sauté pan with lid on medium high heat, add olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add garlic and chicken thighs and sauté until the chicken is brown.
Then add the holy trinity of creole cooking, onion, green capsicum and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften. Add the cajun spice and star anise and mix until all the ingredients are well coated.
Add polish sausage, beef stock and tomatoes, bring it to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low for at least 40 minutes. The longer you cook it, the better it tastes.
At 40 minutes, check for taste and season with salt and pepper for desired flavour. I added only a pinch of salt and pepper. Some cajun spices already have salt and depending on which beef stock you chose, you'll have to factor that in. This is why we didn't add salt at the beginning, you may not need it.
4 minutes before serving, stir in the prawns and cook it on low. This will also depend on what prawns you're using and how big they are. If they're normal prawns, 4 minutes should be plenty. This is also where you add the cauliflower flour and stir it through. The aromas permeating your kitchen by now should be like magic.
Serve with white rice or a fresh French baguette, just tear and dip into that soulful goodness.