I haven’t made Jambalaya for years. It was only after I saw it whilst reading my way through a friend’s cookbook collection that I was reminded how easy it is to make at home. Though I will admit from the outset that this is in no way intended to be a traditional or authentic recreation of a Cajun or Creole recipe. It certainly takes cues from the deep south of America – as it would be rude not to – but transposes it into my Dorset kitchen in the deep south of the UK.
The origin of the name Jambalaya is a little uncertain with several competing claims. Some are a little more fanciful than others but one certainly seems to make a lot of sense. The OED link it back to a Provençal word, Jambalaia, which they define as meaning a mélange, mixture or jumble. Looking at a bowl of the brightly coloured rice studded with meat and vegetables it’s hard to disagree with that!
But what should go into the jumble?
A lot of recipes online call for andouille – a smoked pork sausage that is near impossible to find in the UK. Chorizo is often listed as an alternative, but for me it has a distinct flavour of its own that isn’t right for Jambalaya. To keep it simple I’ve used a smoked pork sausage from my local supermarket – choosing the smokey flavour over a coarse, meaty texture.
Following that are some chicken thighs, chosen for their flavour and more robust, moist texture. You could equally swap in chicken breast here if you’d rather, but the thigh meat stands up to the other flavours and textures in a much more confident way.
Finally, a few king prawns are scattered across the top of the Jambalaya as it finishes cooking. The prawns available to most of us the UK are never as impressive as those you see in other countries, but I think you should try and buy the biggest and plumpest that you can find here. A few of them will go a long way and bring so much more pleasure than a handful of forgettable shrimp. If you can find them with heads and tails still in-situ then why not use those and add a little theatre?
So, that’s the meat – what about the rest of the dish? Well, I deviate from tradition from the outset in this regard. Almost every Jambalaya recipe I’ve seen calls on the “holy trinity” of onion, celery and green pepper. I seldom buy celery – as I might use one stick of the whole head before throwing it away – and felt no need to get some in especially for this recipe. As such, my rice starts off with just the onion and peppers and still tastes great.
The same caveat about autheniticity applies to the spice mix. Mine is a combination made up from several different recipes I’ve seen, trying to balance both the flavour and reality of what most of us have in our cupboards. It’s also a more mild version compared to some cajun or creole spice blends, as I believe spices should be there for flavour rather than to remove the lining of your mouth. I like spicy food as much as the next person, but there’s a reasonable limit on these things!
The end result is a bright bowl of bejeweled rice, flecked with meat and vegetables, just waiting for you to tuck in. It may not be the most authentic Jambalaya, but it’s certainly moreish and I don’t doubt you’ll want to go back for seconds. Isn’t that what home cooking should be about?
For the Spice Mix
- 1½ tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Garlic Granules
- 1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- ½ tsp Onion Granules
- ½ tsp Dried Oregano
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
For the Jambalaya
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 100 g Smoked Sausage cut into chunks
- 300 g Chicken Thigh Fillets cut into chunks
- 12 King Prawns shelled and deveined
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 Onion peeled and chopped
- 1 Green Pepper deseeded and chopped
- 1 Red Pepper deseeded and chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 1 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 300 g Long Grain Rice
- 400 g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 500 ml Good Quality Chicken Stock
- 2 Spring Onions thinly sliced
- Start by preparing the spice mix. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Put to one side until needed.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan over a medium-high heat. Add the sausage and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned all over. Remove from the pan and put to one side, leaving as much oil behind as you can.
- Fry the chicken in the same pan for around 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned all over. It doesn’t need to be cooked through at this stage as it will finish cooking later. When browned remove from the pan and put with the sausage.
- Repeat with the prawns, frying for a couple of minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and put separately to one side.
- Add the butter to the pan, followed by the onions and peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes or so until starting to soften, but still retaining their crunch. Stir the garlic through the vegetables and fry for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the spice mix, then repeat, before stirring the tomato purée through to thickly coat all of the vegetables.
- Pour in the rice and stir through the vegetable mixture. Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, then mix until combined. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat so the liquid is gently bubbling. Loosely cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Return the chicken and sausage to the pan and stir through the rice. Loosely cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes, again stirring occasionally to ensure the rice doesn’t stick.
- Add the prawns back to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until they’re heated through. By this stage almost all of the liquid should have been absorbed by the rice.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two before serving garnished with the spring onion.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||7||g|
|of which Sugars||9||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|