Spicy Chicken Gumbo
Hot and spicy comfort food beckons us at this cold, wet and windy time of year. Slow-cooked meat and veggie hotpots, pasta bakes, steak and kidney pies oozing rich aromatic gravy, hot Indian curries and Creole dishes from the southern States of America help to keep out the cold out of our bones while we wait impatiently for the renewed warmth of Spring.
This chicken recipe is my own take on the spicy Creole chicken gumbo I enjoyed on a number of occasions in the US, when I ventured south of the Mason Dixon Line to participate in winter re-enactment events in the Carolinas and Georgia.
The basic Gumbo stew of meat and/or fish, vegetables and spices originated in Louisiana among the Creole people in the 18th century. It has gained rapidly in popularity and variety of recipes and ingredients in the past four decades thanks to the inspired culinary support of TV Chefs and the internet.
I note that my favourite TV Chef, Jamie Oliver, does a rich and robust Gumbo recipe to which he has added Spanish chorizo sausage, fresh crabmeat and king prawns, among other things. It’s quite a recipe, as you would expect from him! but you may have to search a bit for the fresh crabmeat, king prawns and okra that he has included. My recipe is made up of ingredients I found at Barrow Boys, my local greengrocer on the Isle of Wight, and fresh chicken from the butcher.
Ingredients: Serves 4
3 tbsp. olive oil; 4 chicken breasts, (skinned and cut into chunky pieces); 200 grams bacon lardons; 1 chopped Onion; 2 cloves crushed or finely chopped garlic; 2 sliced celery sticks; 3 tbsp. plain flour; 1 tsp. Paprika, 1 tsp. ground cumin; 1 fresh red Birds eye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped; 1 tsp. dried basil; 600 ml chicken; 1 liberal squirt of tomato concentrate; 1 green bell pepper (deseeded and chopped); 2 chopped spring onions ; 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley.
Method: Prep: 20 mins. Cook 45 mins
Prepare chicken stock with 1 ½ stock cubes and a liberal squirt of tomato concentrate. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken and lardons for a few mins to brown. Reserve on a plate. Add the onion and garlic to the pan with 1 tbs more oil and fry until translucent. Reserve with the chicken. Add the remaining oil and flour to the pan and stir-cook into a roux paste until golden brown. Stir in the spices for 2 mins. Gradually stir in the stock until you have a smooth sauce. Return the chicken, bacon and onion mix to the pan, add the peppers and celery, cover and simmer gently for 20 - 25 mins, stirring occasionally as you reduce the liquid. Check for seasoning, garnish with the spring onions and parsley, and serve.
Food for thought: It is not really an exaggeration to say that peace and happiness begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking.
X. Marcel Boulestin