Mumbo ‘Gumbo’

I know there are  at least two different ‘rouxs’.

The first I have a lot to do with when making sauces such as bechamel, and can do it in my sleep. I use a small amount of oil or butter, depending on the dish, add a little flour and cook out for a few minutes before adding milk or whatever liquid is called for. There’s only a small amount of paste created by the fat and flour, but it sits happily being stirred in the pan for a few minutes until liquid is added.

The second, on the other hand – I have read about and watched being made on television but that’s it. Which roux? The roux for a gumbo – the chocolate brown progression from its paler beginnings. I’ve been granted a camera peek into the pot by a few Louisiana chefs, and I’ve read up, but the first time I had any physical dealings was for this particular recipe for Cajun chicken gumbo.

The alarm bells should have rung at the variation, and perhaps a non Louisianan(?) recipe writer. I’m not saying a person that doesn’t hail from, can’t recreate authentic dishes from other countries, after all – I pride myself on being able to do just that, and from various curves of the globe too, but this was a variation on a Creole dish. I initially decided to give it a go because I like the idea of Cajun flavours, omission of file powder (which I don’t have), and the chicken instead of seafood. It’s easier for me to get decent chicken than decent seafood.

So… I’ve now tried twice with this recipe, and it’s very nice – but the roux is a problem. I’ll mention that the first time I made the dish I had exactly the same problem with the roux but still wanted to try again.

Fast forward to a recent late afternoon and after a busy day at work I put a small ham on to boil and prepped the onion, celery, peppers, spring onions, spices, and chicken until I had a pile of lidded containers and a heap of chicken on my red chopping board.

The recipe states, ‘brown chicken pieces – remove – fry onion – then celery – remove both – add oil and flour to start the roux’.

Now, whenever I have watched anything to do with Louisiana roux, it has always been made as a stand alone item, not as part of an ongoing dish. And at precisely this point is where the problems start. It worked out at around 2tbsp oil, plus residue in pan to 5tbsp flour. Both times of making this recipe, at this point, I started to struggle because the measly amount of paste wasn’t browning, it was just sticking more and more to my cast iron enamelled pan. I think I stirred, whisked, stirred again for over an hour yesterday trying to get that roux to turn, to no avail. Confused, bewildered, and frankly knackered I grabbed my phone with the non stirring hand and ventured on to YouTube where I found a very nice gentleman’s tutorial. Sure enough, he was ‘just making the roux’, and his ratio was a 1/1, a cup of oil to a cup of flour. In twenty minutes-ish he had cycled through the various shades needed for smothered pork, etouffee, ending up at the lovely dark roux for gumbo. He then said to decant into a container and cool, later to be used as part of a gumbo.

After listening to, and watching that tutorial I decided to just carry on with the roux as was – after all, the flour was definitely cooked – and aim to make a proper roux another day to be used in recipes. I was on my last legs and it was getting late.

After adding the spices then the liquid (stock) I had to sieve the result into another pan because the flour had cooked for that long I couldn’t whisk out the lumps, I added the browned chicken, onions and celery, and peppers then let it cook for a while, hoping it would reduce too. I added the merest sprinkle of chicken thickening granules to replace the flour that had dried.  Nearer the end I added chopped ham, parsley and at the very end the spring onions.

In the meantime I cooked rice for the middle of the bowl, but at that point I was sick of the sight of this meal so I didn’t eat much. It was good though, even if the roux was wrong, but I’m looking forward to making the roux properly and eating the difference.

Cajun chicken gumbo

I’m not sure if the recipe writer was getting their rouxs mixed up, because the order of use and the method are very similar to the way a French roux might be used in a dish with meat and a thick sauce. Or maybe they have a magic pan!

I will make this dish again because even made improperly the flavours are great, but I’ll have made the roux first… so the recipe will be tweaked to within an inch of its life! I’ll let you know how I get on!

 

Mumbo ‘Gumbo’

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

If ever I talk about a dish that you want more info on, let me know and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

So… after an enforced break because I had to do the year end paperwork for the business I’m just pulling some meals I cooked from the last few weeks, hopefully the more interesting ones!

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Larger image below

 

Any day

I have always wanted to make my own paella. I’ve been to Spain a lot, but only eaten proper paella once at a party. It’s difficult to order at a restaurant because you have to order in advance, and it’s for more than one person, but husb never fancied it. I dream of that one time I ate it as I love rice dishes! Anyway… I haven’t got a proper paella pan but I decided to ignore that point and use my super duper pan with ears (two teeny curved handles) instead.

I don’t know what I was searching for this day, whether I was looking at pans, or searching for a recipe, but I came across a paella pan site that had a really interesting recipe with very good instructions so I made plans to make it.

Firstly I blackened my own red peppers under the grill; then put them in a plastic food bag to steam for a while then peeled the charred skin off with my fingers when I could handle it. Some people rinse the pepper under the tap, but that must wash away a lot of flavour.

The recipe is long, so I won’t go into all of the detail because you can see it above, but I’ll mention any important stuff, first of which is… at the time I didn’t have paella rice… so I used carnarolli (risotto) rice.

I also paid particular attention to the ‘sofrito’ which, in all my years of hunting down paella recipes, has been missing, and I think is the key. I used thigh meat, which has much more flavour, and I resisted the urge to stir the paella when instructed not to when creating the ‘socarrat’ (not a rodent that plays football, it’s a crust that forms on the bottom), it felt like a long time, and I didn’t use foil because my pan has a lid.

The finished result was excellent, and I credit the detailed recipe instructions. I’m dying to cook the recipe again, and now I have paella rice too!

 

Someday

C wanted a pie on a Friday, and I like to do a curry on a Friday, so I thought I would make a lamb keema pie, a proper pie with a top and a bottom in a bid to accommodate the two thoughts. I made the keema using my special spice mix, and made sure I split the oil at each stage then when ready I cooled it; then filled the lined pie dish, adding a lid when it was full. When it was time I just shoved it in the oven for about forty minutes. I served it which Bombay mashed potatoes, and mushroom pea curry.

The pie was very tasty, but it was too dense, it was absolutely packed full of the keema, I needed to make more of a gravy, next time he can just have his English pie!

 

One day

Last week at some point I made Cumberland sausage toad in the hole. Now… don’t believe everything you read about toad in the hole, there’s not bread or fried eggs involved. Toad in the hole is sausages in batter!

Most people will buy bog standard sausages for this dish, but we believe it deserves award winning Cumberland sausage, so that’s what we used. If you’re unfamiliar with authentic Cumberland sausage, it doesn’t come in links, it’s just one long sausage that the butcher will weigh, cut, and then coil so we don’t need a really long bag and a lorry to get it home!

Anyway… I used a 5, 5, 8 ratio to make the batter. This was new to me and mixes metric and imperial. So (I think) it was 5 eggs, 500g flour and 8floz milk. She mixed metric and imperial so it would be easy to remember, but I can’t remember if the 8 is milk or flour, so that worked, didn’t it! Anyway… I made the batter beforehand, and added a little grain mustard for a bit of zing. Nearer the time I cut the sausage into large pieces, put them in a baking dish with a little sunflower oil, and roasted them for about fifteen minutes until the top of the sausages were starting to brown and the dish was very hot. I then whipped it out of the oven and poured in the batter as quickly as possible before shoving it back in the oven. It took about half an hour to cook, and was well risen and golden when I pulled it out.

I served the toad in the hole with vegetables and onion gravy. The batter was quite heavy, next time I’ll replace some of the milk in the batter with water, if I follow the 5,5,8 again.

Chicken, choizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.
Chicken, chorizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.

 

My mad weekly kitchen diary

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen, whilst trying to get the best out of leftovers.

Larger image below
Larger image below

Sunday

… I did an online shop (which often yields bizarre results)  during the week and lamb had been on offer. I’d specified a 2kg joint and had many exciting plans to use the leftovers. When the shopping arrived the joint was not even a kilo so by the time you take out the bone there wasn’t going to be any creative leftover thinking! Anyway, forget about the leftovers; we have to get through Sunday dinner first. I just seasoned the lamb and stuck it in the oven to roast, for less than an hour. I also had the chance to buy ingredients for my favourite sides, sweet potato and zucchini. They both have to be prepared a certain way for them to go with the lamb in my opinion so I followed my own rules. I par boiled discs of sliced sweet potato and then layered them into a baking dish with a spritz of olive oil, seasoning, and dried rosemary (I prefer dried in this dish). With the zucchini I cut them into about twelve if they are normal sized, then just toss them in olive oil, seasoning, and one clove of crushed garlic per zucchini. Both dishes just go into the oven with about forty five minutes to go. New potatoes were on offer so I just steamed them. I served the lamb with gravy made from the juices and mint sauce from a jar made up with a little extra fresh mint and red wine vinegar.

Monday

… I threw (literally) together rice stick noodles, bean sprouts, large prawns, spring onions, green chilli, oyster sauce and soy sauce. It took about fifteen minutes and was delicious!

Tuesday

… I had barely any lamb leftover so I brought out an old favourite… Lentil and (essence of) lamb curry. I made a stock with the bone and used that as liquid in the curry for extra flavour. I had neither the time nor inclination to make the curry from scratch so I popped black mustard seeds, added onion and chilli and fried, then added my favourite medium curry powder and fried that off for five minutes before adding lentils, tinned tomatoes and the liquid. Towards the end I added the rest of the chopped lamb, cooking for just a while longer. I served the curry with basmati rice.

Wednesday

… WedJ wasn’t visiting so I had leftover lentil and essence of lamb curry, and C had leftover Chinese. An easy cooking day for me!

Thursday

… I’d bought really good chicken burgers on a whim so I cooked those, added lettuce, onion and mayo to a toasted bun and we had oven fries, both the curly and straight variety. I can’t remember the last time I had a chicken burger but I won’t leave it so long next time.

Friday

… It was curry again. I’d previously decided I was going to make a dish from two Indian cookery books I’d acquired so with the online shop I’d bought pork for ‘Amma’s pork curry with green chillies and tamarind’ from ‘Rick Stein’s India’. I hadn’t planned on the essence of lamb curry earlier in the week so we were in danger of curry overload!

Anyway… My first problem was buying a shoulder joint instead of steaks or something, I had to chop up the joint and it wasn’t easy! The next was misremembering a stage in the method. One of the most important things is cooking the onions, or as was in this case, the paste that had been created from onions, chillies, 20 cloves of garlic, and ginger. I had toasted a load of spices and ground them in my new mahoosive pestle and mortar, and then browned the pork in batches. At this point I added the paste and spices and fried them off for only 1 minute, when it should have been at least five. I don’t know what happens to me when I follow a recipe; I seem to lose my instincts. I KNOW that that stage is important and would only be perfectly carried out when the oil starts to split from the paste, but I not only blindly followed the recipe, I blindly followed it incorrectly by adding the water when the paste wasn’t sufficiently cooked. I was SO ANNOYED with myself for making such a fundamental error. Anyway, it was done so from that point I discarded the recipe and cooked the curry for absolutely ages instead of the suggested 30 minutes. Okay I know it was probably very different to the original but it ended up being very edible! Next time though I’ll check the stages, before I move on. I served the curry with basmati rice.

Saturday

… We had leftover Amma’s curry with a vegetable samosa each to change things up a bit!

Roast lamb, rice noodle & prawn stirfry, lentil & essence of lamb curry, chicken burger, Amma's pork and tamarind curry (almost)
Roast lamb, rice noodle & prawn stirfry, lentil & essence of lamb curry, chicken burger, Amma’s pork and tamarind curry (almost)
My mad weekly kitchen diary