Monday, 7 March 2011


Ah, gumbo. The taste of Louisiana, so I'm told. This is a rich stew, perfect for cold evenings and a glass (or two) of full-bodied red wine. I like to use chicken, sweet chipolatas from the local butcher, and a very few fresh, raw tiger prawns from the fishmonger. But you could vary this depending on what you have to hand: pork fillet, turkey, even steak would be perfectly acceptable instead of chicken, and some fine smoked fish or scallops would be delicious instead of prawns.

I usually serve this with plain brown rice, but crusty bread or roasted sweet potatoes would also work. This is a good meal to cook for friends as it is fine reheated- just don't add the tiger prawns until you're about to serve. I tend to make it on a Sunday for just the two of us, then keep another two portions for later in the week.


  • 4 (or more if your budget stretches) raw, shell-on, tiger prawns
  • 2 large or 4 small chicken thighs
  • 6 long, high-quality chipolatas
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 white onion
  • 1-2 green peppers
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 sweet red chilli (or 2-3 if you like it HOT)
  • 3 stems celery
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • half a small glass of red wine
  • 2 tins good-quality chopped tomatoes
  • 250g okra
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly pounded in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves

Shell the tiger prawns, and make a quick stock out of their heads and shells, the onion heads and tails, one of the stems of celery and 100ml of water. You can leave this bubbling while cooking the rest of the ingredients.

Add a tbsp of vegetable oil to the bottom of a deep cast-iron pot (Le Creuset is perfect here!), set it over a low heat and finely chop the red and white onions. Gently fry these for ten minutes until translucent. Meanwhile, chop the green pepper and celery into small pieces, and very finely chop the red chilli. Add these and crush the garlic into the onions. Stir and cook for three minutes, until the chilli and garlic have softened. Remove the vegetables from the pan.

Cut the chipolatas into thirds. If there is no oil left in the pan, add a mere drop, and then add in the chicken thighs and the chipolata pieces. Sear them on each side for a few minutes, until the skins are sealed and golden. Add the flour to the oil that will have accumulated from the sausage fat - if there is not at least 1 tbsp in the pan, add a little more. Cook the flour until it has changed to the colour of peanut butter: this is the roux, and it will thicken the stew and add a smoky flavour. Meanwhile, slice the okra diagonally, to make pretty parallelogram pieces.

Splash in the red wine to deglaze (one for you, one for the pan), then return the vegetables and add the two tins of tomatoes, okra, cumin, paprika and bay leaves. Strain your prawn shell stock into the pan. Combine gently, then cook covered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom. Taste and season, then add the raw tiger prawns to the surface, pushing them just under the liquid. Cover and cook for four more minutes: the prawns should curl up and go pink. Serve with brown rice, or sweet potatoes, or just a dollop of creme fraiche. Top with fresh chives or coriander if desired. Must be eaten with the rest of the red wine, or an ice-cold (lager) beer.

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